In my first diary I told you about the wonderful time I had with newpioneer in off-the-beaten-path Puerto Rico. Now, we'll start in the most urban place in the world, move north to a place that some locals call the Hub of the Universe and progress further north to southern Maine, mostly in the company of my other brother-in-grief, commonmass. The dates, again:
June 23: Delta, San Juan - JFK, for dinner with the NY Kossacks June 24.The rest of my adventure follows below the Great Orange Lobster Trap.
June 26: Amtrak, Penn Station to Boston, to visit commonmass
June 30: Amtrak, Portland, ME to Boston's North Station
July 1: Virgin America, BOS - LAX
New York, Boston and Maine. That would have made a great vacation in and of itself. And, frankly, Manhattan with no set agenda beside dinner one night with the NY Kossacks posed a challenge because it was all my own time. NEVER before as an adult - if I wasn't with Jim, I was presenting a paper or attending a NEH Seminar. I arrived at my hotel (the Gershwin Hotel, on 27th Street just east of Fifth Ave) around 11:30 PM, unpacked, and set out to find someplace that was open 24 hours a day. It was a Duane Reade, so water and snack food, but that was okay, since it was 2.5 blocks from the hotel.
The next morning, since my barber in Los Angeles had cancelled his appointments the week before I left, I found a barbershop via Yelp and had my hair cut. Then I had some things to get for the rest of my trip in Chelsea, and at around 11:20 I found myself on 23rd St. at the entrance to Eataly, where I found Le Verdure and an empty lunch counter. This is what I ordered:
And at 5:15 I set off for Donburiya. 20 blocks north, 3 blocks east. I 'm accustomed to walking in New York, no matter how hot or how humid it is. sidnora, whom I had met at NN 13, was already there, so we chatted as the rest of the attendees, almost all of whose screen names I recognized, arrived: plf515, Avilyn, cohenzee, MBNYC and Liberal Abe (I think this was his first meetup). It was fun, and just a bit more political than the LA meetups (fortunately, I read the New York Times and I visit the local page at least once a week). I think Avilyn is working on the diary about this. In the mean time, here's what I had for dinner:
Then a day ALL to myself. I honestly had trouble figuring out what to do (after one of my Skype friends came by on his way to work), and it was a hot day. So I walked up to the far east 50s, where we spent the last part of the 1970s, to see what had replaced all the restaurants and other places we used to go (I was surprised to see two D'Agostino supermarkets within six blocks of each other, like Starbuck's does, but since that was my preferred market, it's probably a good thing ). Lunch was at Mapo Tofu on Lexington Ave at 40th Street which I had "found" when I was in Manhattan to present at the Harry Hay Centennial; it has a Bib Gourmand award from the Michelin examiners (according to eater.com,
These are restaurants that the guide highlights for excellence on a budget (defined as two courses and wine or dessert for $40 a head).Much less than $40 a head in this case, and the vegetable lo mein was good.
With an afternoon free, I realized I wasn't all THAT far from the Museum of Modern Art, and since I had tickets to the Van Gogh to Kandinsky exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art after they expanded and rearranged the art anyway. I was prepared to pay full price but the women at the ticket counter asked me if I was a senior (65), so I told her I had just missed by four months (it's true) so I received the senior rate anyway. What a collection! I took some pictures but the museum's website has much cleaner images so I'll use theirs and keep this simple. Paintings that surprised me:
Lots more, but this isn't an art diary. The only thing about the rearrangement that bothered me (not seriously but it was jarring) was the placement of their collection of Claude Monet's water lily paintings. In the 1970s, they were all in one room off the culpture garden on the ground floor with some natural light flooding into the gallery. Now, they're on the fifth floor, still in one room, but no natural light. So I went down to the sculpture garden, ordered a lemonade, and played with my new phone (I upgraded to an LG Volt before I left on the trip and I LOVE it). I won't go into detail here, but I know that I've mentioned that the internet has gone a long way toward replacing the bars and bathhouses of the 1970s, and yes, it certainly has. That occupied the last part of the afternoon. He knew about Daily Kos too.
After that, dinner by myself in the Little India section of Lexington Ave, at Anjappar Chettinad, the New York branch of an international chain of South Indian restaurants (the original is in Chennai, India). Interesting and just slightly disappointing, because they said they were out of vegetable biryani (possible, but I think they just hadn't made any). So I strted with an order of onion pakoda (no pic, sorry) and had as my main dish a Vegetable Kothu Parotta, which the menu describes as
South Indian Parotta Chopped and cooked with vegetables, onions, tomatoes.Parotta is a South Indian multi-layered bread.
The next morning I walked with my suitcase to Penn Station for the local train to Boston's South Station. Yes, I should have de-trained at Route 128, but this was okay. commonmass was there to meet me, which we did it the time-honored cell phone method ("You're standing in front of me now"). We found his car, and we immediately left for the Chandler Inn, where we were spending a night before going up to Portland.
Okay, About meeting commonmass. Yes, as I always say, like meeting someone you knew in college, although in this case someone I REALLY knew well, as in fraternity brother or hanging out between classes together OFTEN. We really just picked up the conversations we had been having on the phone, only we were looking at each other when we talked. We wandered through the South End, we had a late lunch at a Thai restaurant (very filling), and then we took the T to the Museum of Fine Arts, which was the whole point of starting in Boston. We started in the new (to us) American Wing, I think around 4:15. Four floors, and as the Museum presents it,
Fifty-three new galleries are now open, in a new wing devoted to the Art of the Americas, from the Pre-Columbian era through the third quarter of the twentieth century.We saw all of them.
On four floors: Level LG
Ancient American, Native American, 17th-Century, and Maritime Art
18th-Century Art of the Colonial Americas and Early 19th-Century Art
19th-Century and Early 20th-Century Art
20th-Century Art through the mid-1970s
Actually, we started on level 1, where we were greeted with this portrait that John Singleton Copley completed in 1768
LOTS of Copleys. Most painted in Boston before the revolution, some painted in London during and after the Revolution. A few nice Benjamin Wests too, and John Sully's 1819
Passage of the Delaware which is NOT what you think of when you think of the crossing.
Showcasing art of the ancient Americas and Native American art from the prehistoric era to the present, Level LG includes exceptional examples of goldwork from what is today Colombia, Andean textiles, the foremost collection of classic Maya ceramics outside of Guatemala, and a range of Native North American works. Visitors can explore the beginnings of colonial life in New England through the Museum’s unparalleled collection of 17th- and early 18th-century portraits, furniture, silver, and textiles. One gallery showcases rotating exhibitions of Colonial embroidery, including samplers, needlework pictures, and domestic textiles. Complementing these spaces is a gallery devoted to ship models and the maritime world, the Brown Pearl Hall, a 17th-century period room, and the 17th-century Manning House frame.The stuff in bold is the more contemporary material. "Plunder", we said. The Museum provides some highlights (I thought I had pictures but apparently not), so here's a Pacific Northwest object from the turn of the last century:
Museum purchase with funds donated anonymously, 2008.
Level 2 offered a REALLY good selection of 19th century American art and period rooms, with a large selection of works by John Singer Sargent, and a truly terrible Aesthetic Movement mantelpiece with painting, and Level 3 recapped the 20th Century more modestly than MOMA had, but with a good selection of decorative art as well. I think this probably deserves a diary of its own. What I think is most significant here is that when we were finished and we looked at our watches it was 7:50. We had just spent almost four hours in the museum without being aware of the passage of that much time. It was fun! So we walked over to the bar where I met Jim for the first time in 1971, had a drink (it looks VERY different now), and went back to the hotel.
Friday morning we took advantage of the breakfast buffet that came with the price of the room, packed, checked out, and drove to the MFA because our tickets were still good (for the next week, in fact). When we couldn't find a parking space we decided it was time to drive up to Portland, which we did. After we got my suitcase out of the car, commonmass took me on a tour of Portland. It's a nice little city with a working waterfront that the town fathers have made no effort to hide, as in other places. Some pictures of downtown (we did some walking):
The next day, Saturday, commonmass had a Masonic event he had to go to, so I made coffee, had a makeshift brunch, read and caught up on the World Cup. When he got back mid-afternoon, more eating and drinking ensued before we took what used to be called a "disco nap." Why? Portland has a nice neighborhood-type gay bar, Blackstones, which commonmass wanted me to see. Like everything else we had done together since Boston, the bar was fun, and very friendly, too.
On Sunday, after coffee and breakfast, we went for a trip up the coast which ended up at Five Islands Lobster Company in Georgetown. When in Maine, yes. They bill it as "the prettiest harbor in Maine" so here's a pic,
An amazing 13 days. Two new places to visit, two important friendships confirmed, and much fun had, overall, by all. Now, off to Netroots Nation 14 in five days.