Passaic River and The Great Falls 

Betsy and I went to see the Great Falls and the remnants of the once great manufacturing town of Paterson in New Jersey. Our prescient Secretary of the first US Treasury Alexander Hamilton, saw and understood the potential these falls had for providing electrical energy to the nascent country. Here he stands overlooking the Falls. 

A visionary and a genious. What a great loss that fateful day when his pride overcame his genius and the bullet tore his life from him and from his family and our country. 

Hamilton

Another tour with Jimmy Napoli and his Corsicans –Gregory and Thiago. We assembled at the Morris Jumel mansion in Harlem at 163 and Sylvan Terrace. 


 I don’t know what your image of Harlem is but it’s beautiful with broad steeets lined with wonderful buildings.  Luminaries such as Duke Ellington made their home there “Take the A train.”  Now tour guide extraordinare Jimmy Napoli does too. 


We gathered at the Morris Jumel mansion on a warm sunny day. We were seated and listened to Gregory summarize the life of Alexander Hamilton before and during the Revolutionary War. 

George Washington held his staff meetings in the 252 year old 8500 sq ft mansion and billeted 2-3000 troops on the property which once encompassed land from the Hudson  River to the Harlem River in upper Manhattan. 

Lin Manuel Miranda genious author of Hamilton wrote two songs in the upstairs room of the mansion. “Wait for It” and “Room Where It Happened.”

Much of the mansion is still being restored. Even the French wallpaper ordered by Madame Jumel is being ordered from a French wall paper company whose wallpapers date to those times. 
We left stopping to admire the 19thC town homes lined up and beautifully maintained by individuals such as Alicia Keyes. 


We trekked to 143rd to see the Grange the only home Hamilton owned. Sadly after his death, Eliza his widow had to sell it to provide for her and their children. Hamilton spent little time in the Geange and died an impoverished man. It too is in dire need of preservation. It’s current location is its third and hopefully last. 

We sat under the shade of a large tree and Jimmy presented a brilliant summary of Hamilron’s career and tragic death. 

 This was my second tour with Jimmy Napoli who is a noted and long time fan of Alexander Hamilton.  Next. St. Croix!!

We all repaired to a nearby pub for a cool drink and a snack. The group was enlivened by a lively set of cousins and their spouses.  They made me an honorary member of their club. A great day!

John Derian

Today I made my pilgrimage to the 3 sweet shops on East 2 St @ 2nd Ave and Bowery that comprise the John Derian Collection. I’ve know, admired, and envied John’s eye and art since 1994 when I opened Found Objects and sold his work.

Initially decoupage plates, then vase, then paperweights and so on. Now there’s linen and furniture, cards and ephemera, china and antique French sleep shirts,  oddities and whimseys. A world that entices and delights. Really more than my sensibilities can encompass in several hours of careful scrutiny. 

Today I held myself in check and bought just two issues of Gather. The love child of Michele Outland and Fiorella Valdesolo. If you don’t know it. Get it!

Atlantic

Atlantic is a main drag here. One corner is anchored by the largest Trader Joe’s I’ve ever seen. But there are also lots of  small  businesses and cafes and pizza joints. 

There’s also a cat cafe 


This is a non profit  that rescues kittens (Katie, are you listening?) and houses them until they are adopted. The window was just full of lounging in the warm afternoon sun happy cats. 

I popped into a British pub which featured about 100 beers you’ve never heard of–at least speaking for myself. I usually drink about 2 beers a year but what the heck when in Rome etc. so I ordered an Irish stout. O’Hara’s. It was good. Had a unique espresso after taste. Went well with the cod and chips. Watched the last 30″ of a FIFA game Chile vs Germany 1-1. 

Then I wandered around shooting interesting buildings and went home–hot tired and, yes, sweaty. I started the day with yoga and walked 7K steps this afternoon. So back to my British police procedural and a relax as they say.   Ta!!

Five Senses

The notion of satisfying each of our senses in any given day is something I aspire to experience.  So how did I do today?

TASTE

I slept in a little and ate a really good breakfast Burrito.  But wait, there’s more in the taste department.  I wandered down Montague St. and took a seat at Pain Quotidian and ordered a Very large capuchino. Quite good. But the best thing of all was the late lunch I had at B Good.  A freshly prepared salad of quinoa, kale fresh veggies barely sautéed sprinkled with toasted garbanzos and pumpkin seeds. Really a feast. 

HEARING

Not so good. A cacaphonous medley of sirens, car alarms, fire engines’ horns bleating, emergency vehicles braying and the usual human contributions to crowded streets. 

SIGHT

This was a stellar day. I heading to Pierpont St to the Brooklyn Historic Society. The beautiful 4- story brick Queen Anne style building was constructed in 1881. Thankfully it has survived. 

  • The second floor contains the Othmer Library. The collection is focused on materials pertinent to Brooklyn.   You can go there to do research utilizing the archives. 
  • The exhibit that most interested me were the photographs of David Attie. Mr Attie was sent on assignment to photograph a memoir Truman Capote was writing about the years he lived in Brooklyn Heights. They became friends just as the talented writer was on the cusp of celebrity. Capote lived in Brooklyn Heights–not far from where I’m staying. Attie went on to have a successful career as well. 

SMELL

Coffee beans roasting, fresh bakery goods just out of the oven.  The mouthwatering aromas of Nathan’s hotdogs from a sidewalk vendor’s cart. Exhaust. 

TOUCH

Thus is my favorite sense. Today it was satisfied by a pedicure and a chair massage by a talented and energetic young woman–Jessie–at the Dashing Diva at 130 Montague St. 

When Michangelo Buonarroti painted God and Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel they were striving to touch finger to finger. Adam is yearning to make contact with the divine. We all do. However, we are earth bound and must take our pleasure in human touch as it is offered. 

Wishing you a wealth of joy in every sense!

DUMBO

OK. let me first say I’m writing with my thumbs. The other 8 digits are holding the phone. I bravely (stupidly) decided to leave the heavy Toshiba home so there you go!

I walked a lot today. I did more than five miles.   Leaving the Promenade behind I headed down to DUMBO under the Brooklyn Bridge and explored some nice shops such as the new Shinola shop. Very nice.  Go Detroit!

The area has done a great job pf restoring and repurposing old buildings like the one pictured which was once a warehouse.

Another find was the outpost of the Brooklyn Historic Society which has a brilliant photography exhibit of the changes in the waterfront from Red Hook to the the area under both bridges .

The main collection is on Pierpont St in Brooklyn Heights which I plan to visit tomorrow

At 3:30 I decided to call it a day  I got back to the condo hot and sticky.  Sweaty.    “Yes, Daddy, I know girls don’t sweat. Horses sweat, girls perspire!”    Well,  I was sweaty!  

I pulled off my shoes socks tee shirt shorts and bra and was grateful for the lovely breeze pouring through the window.  


Brooklyn Heights

Brooklyn Heights Day 1

Got up early and went out for a much needed walk. Too many hours sitting at SeaTac and on a plane. The comfortable condo perches on the heights looking at the spires  of a lovely old church. The nearby Promenade offers Lady Liberty the B Bridge and lower Manhattan all swept like confetti into your visual pathway. 

New Yorkers are so friendly and helpful. And the men flirt. Especially the ethnic Carribeans. Example:  “Adonde viene?”  One of the staff asked me in the little cafe where I ate breakfast on Montague Street. This place is filled with locals all talking loudly about the news the death of the young man tortured by the North Koreans and Trump’s latest shanigans. Clearly I was new to the neighborhood. 

“Seattle Washington. ” I replied.  ( I don’tknow how he knew I spoke Spanish. )

“Me lleva?” he responded. 

“Ahorita, no, pero mañana, quizás ” I said.  

Big smile and “Hasta mañana!”

So a great way to start a girl’s day. 

I Remember Where I was Fifty Years Ago

I do remember where I was. It was my twenty-second birthday. I remember that day clearly. I was sitting in my office on the UC Berkeley campus when someone turned their radio up so we could all hear the stunning news that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. We sat in numbed silence as the campanile bells began to toll in regular cadence. Staff and students walked out of the buildings and scattered across the silent campus. I don’t remember anyone telling us we could leave; we just did.

My husband and I rendezvoused at our car and as people often do when in shock, we did the usual and mundane: we stopped for some groceries. We made our way home to the little community of Pinole north of Berkeley where we lived. We stopped to get Peter, our 13 month old son, from his day care center. His care giver was ashen-faced–I suppose we all were. We wondered if our country was under attack. We wondered how this could happen. We were afraid.

My grandparents were staying with us to celebrate Thanksgiving and my birthday. I don’t remember either of those events. I remember watching and listening to the small black and white TV in our living room that long terrible day and those that followed. I don’t remember going to work or doing anything besides watching and listening except to care for Peter.

I remember Walter Cronkite’s choking voice announcing that the president was dead. I remember weeping and being unable to sleep. I remember my grandparents’ shocked disbelief.

I remember when Lee Harvey Oswald was shot by Jack Ruby.

The two terrible deaths yet to come–Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King Junior–are forever linked in my mind to the president’s death. Those three deaths marked and frame the astounding changes in our country that followed. So, yes, I do remember what happened fifty years ago.

Living in Rome

Like all big cities, Rome is hard to learn especially the old central part of the city.  It is a jumbled puzzle box full of odd shaped pieces made up of short, narrow, winding, cobbled streets which change names erratically.

via dei Cappellari
via dei Cappellari

We are presently living on via Cappellari  which is more or less parallel to via Giulia and the Tiber.  Via dei Cappellari–the street of the hat makers–runs for several blocks under that name and then passes through the Campo and becomes Via dei Giubonari crosses Via Arenula and heads into the Ghetto as Via di Portico d’Octavia.  It’s important to know how this works because you might be on the “right” street–the one you are searching for–just haven’t gone far enough–or too far.

Another thing you might not recognize as valuable information are rione numbers.  Just as Paris has its arondissements, Rome has rione.  A street sign might say via Cappellari rione vi.  To a Roman this tells them where you are in the same way zip codes do in the U.S.  That said, Romans refer to landmarks, this piazza or that church, to give directions.  All this has to do with getting lost because you will: all the time, night and day, and you either allow time for being lost or you hire taxis or you exhaust yourself and have no energy for viewing the monument you wanted to see.  Getting lost isn’t bad really, unless you’re tired, need to use a toilet, or are late to a dinner date.

Reservations for dinner are important if you’re going to a good place.  By good, I do not mean expensive.  Last night we ate at Matricianella on via del Leone near San Lorenzo in Lucina.  It’s small and very popular.  The food is delicious.  I had carciofa giudia and tagliatino tartufo.  I love truffles and this dish was topped with shaved black truffle over barely sauced perfect pasta.  A green salad and sorbetto shared with Ken who had a buffalo mozzarella with prosciutto, and lasagna completed our menu.  I had a glass of prosecco and we each ordered a glass of a local red–rich and dark.  This with a litre of sparkling water and bread came to 70E or $87.

Many tourists fall under the spell of sitting at a café just outside a famous monument.  Your decision will cost you more, and probably will be inferior to, the small café off the tourist path. The cost of a café–one shot of espresso–standing at the bar will be 1E.  When you have table service it will be double that or more depending on your location.

We have a favorite little coffee bar we visit every morning for cappucino and cornetto. They also make fresh orange juice in a tall glass. Two cappucino, two cornetti and one OJ cost 8E.

Selecting a place to live–in our case for two weeks–can be very difficult. All the on-line booking sites that show pages and pages of pictures are not always what they seem. We found the pictures deceptive in some cases and the availability calendars frequently inaccurate. I’ve come to the conclusion the requests we sent in were used to get us to take places we hadn’t inquired about but that were available.

We eventually took two places; one for 8 days, the other for 6. The first one was a huge disappointment. The old building was gorgeous from the floor landings and it was quiet, but the apartment had no views and was in need of maintenance and cleaning from top to bottom. Deposits aren’t refundable so you’re stuck if you’re unhappy.
Rome Trastevere 2013-10-17 001

 

 

The second place is lovely. It’s only drawback is street noise; few cars but motos, late night diners, and general street noise would keep us up all night. Luckily the owner wisely installed new sound proof windows and a modern AC unit in the bedroom so we sleep soundly. The rest of the place is lovely. Light is a premium and this apartment has two windows in the bedroom and a big window in the living/dining room.

rome 2013-10-26 004

rome 2013-10-26 001

rome 2013-10-26 009

We’ve had many interesting discussions with Italians–usually artists whose studios we visit. They often speak good English and are eager to talk about politics and economics. They are universally worried about Italy and what lies ahead for them. I would describe them as depressed and very concerned. One artist who is married (his wife is also an artist) with a five year old pays 1,000E for studio rent and 1,000E for his apartment per month. He said he is having a very hard time making the rents. If Italy goes down, he’ll move to Philadelphia where he has family. His story–in one way or another–was repeated over and over again.

This despair and concern is mixed with anger over the ever increasing taxes the government is applying. Speaking with a FedEx employee about the cost to ship a package, we were told an additional tax of 22% will be applied to the cost of shipping as a result of recent new regulations.

Of course, this inclines us to use the Post Office which we have been doing. There is no tracking system which is alarming. Sometimes we wonder if we’ll ever see our things again. We had real pause for concern at the Rome PO the other day when we paid over 200E to send two boxes–the entire amount had to be paid in cash. They do NOT use credit cards. We were scratching our head over a postal system in the capital city not set up to use credit cards. How could that be!

Despite these differences from our tidy lives at home, Rome remains a beautiful and interesting city.  So many amazing and richly soul-rewarding experiences.  I spent four hours yesterday at the Etruscan museum viewing rooms full of ornaments, furniture, household goods and statuary.  At one point, I stood before a life-sized Etruscan couple lounging together on a couch.  I knew they had lived many hundreds of years ago however I was profoundly moved by their smiles, their outstretched arms and beautifully modeled hands beckoning me to join them at a banquet in their home high on some Tuscan hilltop.  My guess is the evening would have included musicians, dancers and witty conversation.  For a moment I was there.

What do dogs and bikes have in common?

Marvin ChapmanMelli and Alberta

Imagine my surprise when I opened the Seattle Times and saw a familiar face from the prison-Summit collaboration–Marvin Chapman. Marvin and I had a wonderful dog, Melli, in common. He and his partner, Alan, trained Melli, and I entertained her during a three week break at my home.

The picture in the paper shows Marvin inspecting a child’s bike in need of repair. Marvin isn’t handling dogs anymore, he’s working on bikes in the prison’s program which returns repaired bicycles to kids in the community who need one.

Marvin is 25 years old. He’s doing time for manslaughter. He was an excellent dog handler and I imagine he’s an excellent bike repairman. I guess Marvin’s trying to “fix” things and in so doing he’s fixing himself.