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Archive for January, 2010

Still to Come

January 26, 2010 1 comment

I wrote a little bit about last week’s trip to Dallas here, but planned two more posts, which have yet to be written. And now we’re onto the next trip. It’s been an unusual month. I wish to record the topics I plan to write about. This will help remind me to return to them, as well as creating an obligation on my part to get the posts done. Here’s what’s in store:

1. Nasher Sculpture Center. We went there last Wednesday with our friend Won, for a walk around the garden, lunch, and a quick look around the collection indoors. It’s a part of the Dallas Arts District, which we also walked around, with stops at the Meyerson Symphony Center and the brand new Winspear Opera House. Bonus item: at the Nasher, we ran into a well-known movie actor. Guess who.

2. The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. We went here from the Nasher. It’s the old Texas School Book Depository building. Yes, the building where Lee Harvey Oswald worked in the fall of 1963 and from whose sixth-floor southeast corner window Oswald shot Kennedy. An exceptional museum. An eerie experience. A must see.

3. Landing in Washington National Airport. Haven’t flown in there in years. What a view as you come in, which we did late Sunday afternoon, two days ago. Bonus item: missing the turn onto the correct highway and finding ourselves driving upstream along the Potomac on the Virginia side, with more astonishing views but mounting panic as we can’t get off or turn back for the longest time.

4. A short visit to Delaware. That’s where we were heading from DC, and after less than 24 hours, we were off again.

5. Evening in New York. We’re here now. We took the Amtrak Acela up from Wilmington yesterday, arrived in Penn Station a little before 7:00 last night, and had the most wonderful Italian dinner at Paola’s Restaurant, on the corner of Madison and 92nd. (Our hotel sits atop it.) I thought we were back in Italy.

By the time I get around to filling in the details, there may be a lot more to write about, as we will be returning to DC tomorrow night. I’ll be taking care of NSF duties there while Gail gets to go to museums. I’m hoping that once we get home Saturday, we can stay put for a little while.

Categories: Travel

Kate McGarrigle

January 22, 2010 Leave a comment

I just wrote about our arrival three days ago in Dallas. The low point of the day was when I learned in our hotel room that evening that Kate McGarrigle had died. What a loss! (If you’re unfamiliar with Kate, and her sister Anna, you could learn about them by going to their website. Or see the NYT obituary here.) I stumbled on the news in Rick Hertzberg’s post about her at the New Yorker blog. I can hardly add anything to Hertzberg’s comments, so please have a look, and while you’re there, click on the youtube video he has embedded.

What album in recent decades has more good music than their first, Kate and Anna McGarrigle? A little over 15 years ago, I had the unexpected pleasure of meeting one of the musicians who played on that album: Joel Tepp. He’s on only a couple of the songs, as I recall, but boy is he good. And since his daughter went to elementary school with the daughter of our good friends Andy and Cynthia (whose son, in turn, went to pre-school with Joel), we got to know him. I played Kate and Anna McGarrigle over and over for weeks after first meeting him. I need to dig it out so I can do so again.

Categories: Music, Obituary

Dallas Arrival

January 22, 2010 Leave a comment

I meant to write a post with this title three nights ago, on the day we arrived in Dallas, but now we’re already home. Oh well. In the wake of my post almost two weeks ago about our arrival in Atlanta and how that meant I had set foot in my 45th state, I was going to point out that I had been in Texas before, as had Gail, but never to Dallas.

My first trip to Texas was in January 1977, when I was applying for my first faculty position and UT Austin flew a huge collection of candidates in just after the annual meeting of the American Math Society, which was in St. Louis that year. It was a famous winter in the Mississippi and Ohio valleys and points north. The Ohio had frozen. One of the days that I was in St. Louis, the high temperature was -2. And it was windy. For years after that, the AMS made sure not to hold its annual meeting in a cold climate. But here’s the highlight of that trip. In Austin, I stayed in a motel at the edge of campus, right at the foot of a gigantic elevated freeway. The nearest building to us was the LBJ Library, which I had visited during some of my free time. No doubt this site is no longer the edge of campus. Maybe the motel isn’t even there anymore. Anyway, I was in the lobby, which was really a tiny entry space with a check-in desk and some chairs, waiting for a van to take me to the airport. The van came — well, some van anyway, maybe a different one — and a new arrival walked up to the desk to check in. I need to remind you that during that very week, the last week of January, the country was being swept up in a new miniseries, Roots, based on the book by Alex Haley. And who walked into that Austin motel? Alex Haley. The most famous man in America that week was checking into the motel as I was leaving. I can’t imagine why he wasn’t staying somewhere else.

Then there was my trip to Lubbock in January 1980, which I could write about for a while, but let’s move ahead 30 years, (Indeed, my arrival in Dallas three days ago followed my Lubbock departure by exactly 30 years.) And I passed through El Paso in 2005 on the way to Apache Point Observatory in southern New Mexico. That’s it for me and Texas, until this week.

What’s there to say about our Dallas arrival? Well, it was warm, the warmest temperatures we’ve experienced for months. And we got to see my old friend Won for the first time in over 15 years. He picked us up and swung by his house in Irving so we could have a tour. Then we headed into Dallas in rush hour traffic and took a bit of a driving tour of the Arts District and the Uptown neighborhood before heading to our hotel. Won had to go to dance class, so he dropped us off. We checked in, got settled, then Won returned to take us to a late dinner at Cyclone Anaya’s, a Mexican restaurant with five locations in Houston and Dallas that, to our taste, was superb. I would happily go back. Even better, they should open a branch here. I recommend it.

I have more to say about Dallas, but it doesn’t fit under the heading of our arrival, so I will return to the subject in a separate post.

Categories: Restaurants, Travel

Spring?

January 17, 2010 Leave a comment

I may be getting ahead of myself, and anyway, it’s not that big a deal, but I looked outside half an hour ago and robins were everywhere — on the lawn, in the trees, flying back and forth. Look at the photo above of our maple tree and see for yourself. I don’t remember seeing robins yesterday, or the day before, or for many weeks. I’m thinking this is significant. Throw in all the daffodil shoots in the yard and I’m prepared to believe that it could just be the start of spring around here.

Categories: Life, Weather

Fritz Lohman

January 15, 2010 Leave a comment

I just learned last night that Fritz Lohman, long-time friend of the family, died on December 31 at the age of 87. The AP provided an obituary that has appeared in several places, including for instance here. The obituary focuses on his pioneering role, along with his partner Charles, in establishing SoHo as an arts district and in championing gay and lesbian artists. I remember having dinner at their restaurant/gallery on Broome Street, perhaps in the mid 1970s, along with my brother, my sister, and my brother’s wife. As the obituary explains, they would close the gallery “in 1981 amid the turmoil of the AIDS crisis that resulted in fewer visitors to the gallery. In 1990, it reopened as the Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation in the basement of a building the two men owned and two years ago it moved into the 3,600-square-foot Wooster Street space.”

The obituary also notes, in passing, that “Lohman, avuncular, balding with soft, kind eyes, also ran a successful interior design business for 40 years, until 1987 … .” That’s how we knew him best. In 1961, my parents bought the house they still live in. That would also be around the time that Fritz and Charles became partners. And it’s when Fritz became our interior designer. I didn’t think of him as avuncular at the time. Well, I didn’t even know the word then, but if I did, I wouldn’t have applied it to him. And I failed to take note of his soft, kind eyes. But I loved his voice, his humor, and his laugh. On the occasion of my Bar Mitzvah a few years later, he and Charles were kind enough to give me James R. Newman’s four-volume classic, The World of Mathematics. It has since served as a continuing reminder of his presence in my life.

Please read the full obituary. And visit the Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation website (or, better yet, if you’re in the area, the gallery).

Categories: Family

Asparagus Risotto

January 15, 2010 Leave a comment

There are many reasons why it’s been great to have Joel home the last few weeks. One is that he loves to cook. And he’s a good one. Yesterday, he made a simple but superb dinner: asparagus risotto and a green salad (baby red butter lettuce and spinach dressed with oil and vinegar, salt and pepper). I didn’t have the presence of mind to take a photo of the risotto. (The photo at the top is a stand-in courtesy of Tesco.) All I can say is, it was perfect. I can’t believe I have the good fortune to live with two great cooks.

Categories: Food

Atlanta Trio

January 14, 2010 Leave a comment

My last two posts have to do with our arrival in Atlanta Saturday night. Let me mention three highlights of the time we spent visiting some of the sights on Sunday and Monday.

1. The Jimmy Carter Museum. It was pretty cold Sunday, in the teens when we awoke and the low twenties when we headed out in the late morning. I won’t describe everything we did that day, though we covered a lot of ground. I’ll just mention our final and longest stop, the complex that is home to the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum and also The Carter Center. The library is the standard presidential library that every president since Hoover has had built in the location of his choice. It’s a continuing puzzle to me why presidential papers aren’t maintained in Washington. These libraries all strike me as acts of vanity. Whatever. In any case, given that we were in Atlanta and Carter’s vanity project is there too, we were happy to visit, all the more so by the time we were done, for the museum does an excellent job of giving an account of Carter’s life. We both very much wanted to head straight down to Plains afterwards to see some of the sights there firsthand. The setting for the complex is especially attractive, a park-like setting with views of downtown and midtown to the west. In addition to the text, photos, and video that recount Carter’s life — and Rosalynn’s as well — there are many interesting memorabilia.

2. The World of Coca-Cola. Yes, seriously. The World of Coca-Cola. This place is great! If you’re in Atlanta, go there. It’s at the north end of downtown, immediately north of Olympic Centennial Park and adjacent to the Georgia Aquarium. If we had more time (and Gail were more motivated), we would have visited the Aquarium too. One can buy a reduced-price combo ticket to the two. What do you see at The World of Coca-Cola? I’ll quote from the website.

The World of Coca-Cola at Pemberton Place celebrated its Grand Opening on May 24, 2007. It’s the only place where you can explore the complete story—past, present and future—of the world’s best-known brand.

With 60,000 square feet for you to explore, the World of Coca-Cola features more than 1,200 artifacts from around the world that, until now, have never been displayed to the public before.

Around every corner you’ll experience something new and inviting. You’ll see great interactive exhibits such as a thrilling, multi-sensory 4-D movie (3D glasses with moving seats) and a fully functioning bottling line. You can even give our 7-foot Coca-Cola Polar Bear a big hug! And of course, a World of Coca­Cola favorite—the tasting experience, will give you a refreshing opportunity to sample over 60 different products from around the world. All this and much more make the World of Coca­Cola a unique and must-see Atlanta experience! A visit of the entire attraction is estimated to last an average of 90 minutes.

My advice? Allow more than 90 minutes. We were there for 2 3/4 hours. That included time shopping in the store, so maybe 2 1/2 hours is enough. There’s a lot to see and a lot to learn, not just about Coke but about business in the late nineteenth and the twentieth centuries. There are so many astonishing photos and stories. Getting Coke to the troops during World War II at the traditional price of 5 cents a bottle, even if it cost Coca-Cola a lot more than that to deliver it. Developing the business model of having independent bottlers around the country — and then the world — each of whom would buy the syrup from Coca-Cola, then add water and carbon dioxide, bottle it, and distribute the result. Coke is both a global and a local product. And that Coca-Cola Polar Bear? Hey, don’t laugh. He’s the greatest. We have the photo to prove it. We love him.

As for the Coke itself, I was so inspired by the story that I couldn’t wait to get into the tasting room and drink some. First one encounters some 64 Coca-Cola produced drinks produced in various countries around the world. One grabs a plastic cup, then goes up to different soda fountains to sample them. I sampled a blue drink from Italy that gagged me, then a few more, but I wanted the real thing. Beyond all the international fountains is a room with fountains having Coke in its different varieties — vanilla, cherry, diet, etc. And in the middle of the room, the drink that started all the fuss, classic Coke. I was ready. I took some. I drank. And I was disappointed to discover that I still didn’t like it. I did 50 years ago, but not for the last 40 years.

3. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site. And to think we almost missed it. We saw some signs pointing toward it on both Sunday and Monday, but never did quite figure out where it was. Then, after the Coke tour, a drive up and down downtown trying to decide where to park for a late lunch, and then finding a parking spot around the corner from City Hall on the south end of downtown and having lunch at a Subway at around 4:00 PM, we decided to make a more serious effort, using my iPhone, to actually find the MLK site. We got there, parked, and entered the visitor center at around 4:30. Of course, closing time is 5:00, so we didn’t have much time to see anything. When the ranger told us that if we headed across the street to Freedom Hall, we might be able to get a space there for the 5:00 tour, the final one of the day, of MLK’s birth home, we went straight there, skipping the exhibits in the visitor center. Of course, no spaces were available. Freedom Hall opens out to one end of a reflecting pool, near the other end of which is the tomb of MLK and Coretta Scott King. We walked on the shaded icy path on one side of the pool, then came around to the front side to see the tomb, across from which is an eternal flame. And the far side of that is famed Ebenezer Baptist Church. Back across the street, next to the visitor center, is the newer Ebenezer Baptist Church. We crossed over in that direction and re-entered the visitor center, with 15 minutes left to see the exhibits. Photos, text, videos on overhanging TV screens. We would have preferred to have more time, but we saw what we could, until everything was shut down. Next time we’ll get there earlier.

I suppose with better planning we might have gone to the MLK National Historic Site before The World of Coca-Cola. But, no regrets. We enjoyed everything we did. We will simply have to go back to Atlanta and give ourselves more time. Had it not been a Monday, we would almost surely have gone to the High Museum of Art first, and thereby perhaps missed The World of Coca-Cola altogether. But the High is closed on Mondays. And anyway, it’s not delicious and refreshing.

Categories: Travel

Craftbar Atlanta

January 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Saturday night, I wrotefrom our Atlanta hotel room that by arriving in Georgia that evening, I had added #45 to my list of visited states. I had intended to write a second post that night, about our superb dinner at Craftbar earlier in the evening, but I was too tired. I’ll make up for it now, though the excitement has dissipated along the way.

When choosing our hotel, we didn’t have a clear idea of where to be. From what little I read, I decided we might enjoy staying in the Buckhead neighborhood — the northern part of Atlanta with some of the best hotels, restaurants, and shopping — and so we booked ourselves in one of the newest Buckhead hotels, The Mansion on Peachtree. It’s a fifteen-story boutique hotel and our room was on the eleventh floor, with views of some other nearby high rises and one of the malls. Only the next day, when we drove off, circled around the mall, and came around on the far side, did I realize that the hotel is in fact one of the two or three tallest buildings in Buckhead. Tall and very narrow. The hotel occupies the bottom floors, but there are another 30+ floors of condos. There’s a mid section with two two-bedroom condos per narrow floor and an upper section, narrower still, with a three-bedroom condo filling each floor. The condo residents have a separate entry on the other side.

Hotel residents arrive by driving into a big courtyard, with the hotel on one side and a two-story building on the other. That’s where the restaurant is, or rather two restaurants. On the upper floor is a fancy restaurant, Craft, and on the ground floor is Craftbar, a combination bar and more casual restaurant. The original Craft, I should note, is in Manhattan, started by chef/owner Tom Colicchio. There are now additional Crafts in Atlanta, Dallas, and LA. You can read more at the website.

We got into our hotel room around 9:00 PM and weren’t eager to get back in the car in search of dinner. The options seemed to be room service or the restaurant across the way. We didn’t want a fancy, leisurely meal. Nor were we ready to call it an evening and stay in the room, since for us the time was only 6:00 PM. The casual Craftbar appeared to be our best choice. To our surprise, when we arrived there at 9:30 PM, without having called over for a reservation, the place was crowded and noisy. Fortunately, there was a two-top available. It was, in fact, the only open table in the whole place. We were lucky. We felt luckier still when we studied the menu. Everything looked fabulous. See for yourself, here.

How about that veal ricotta meatballs, pappardelle, tomato dish? I thought that was just what I wanted, until I looked at the next one down: smoked pork chop, fingerling potato, smoked bacon, grilled apple. Under the list of snacks, Gail liked the idea of crispy risotto fritters. But she’s a sucker for pork belly, and the pork belly, apple, curry, maple syrup appetizer sounded awfully tempting. We ended up relying on our excellent young waiter for advice. The meatballs are indeed their classic dish, but he loves the pork chop. And he assured Gail that the pork belly comes out crisp on the outside. But we had to try the risotto fritters. So here’s what we did. We ordered the fritters to come out with the appetizers as a shared snack. Gail got the pork belly. I got the baby spinach, applewood bacon, pickled egg salad. Then I got the pork chop entree and Gail ordered the hanger steak, potato purée, roasted root vegetable, garlic confit.

How was it? Every bit as good as it sounds. I was insistent that I didn’t want to try the pork belly, since my salad was more than ample and had bacon in it, but Gail insisted, and I can’t imagine how it could be better. Likewise for the pork chop. Likewise for everything. We had to pass on dessert. We were too full. But our visit to Atlanta had gotten off to a perfect start.

Categories: Restaurants, Travel

Georgia on my Mind

January 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Hoagy Carmichael

[Encyclopedia Brittanica]

I’m writing from Atlanta, where we arrived 4 1/2 hours ago. Neither Gail nor I have been here before, or anywhere in the state of Georgia. I wasn’t sure I’d ever make it here. As of 5 hours ago, I had been to 44 states, but hadn’t been to one in the south in decades, and the six states I had never been to formed a contiguous southern block: South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas. So Georgia is my 45th state. Five still to go, but no longer contiguous. Georgia and North Carolina form a barrier, isolating South Carolina from the other four.

With a little more time, we wouldn’t have to go far to slip over the border to Alabama. Or Tennessee. Or South Carolina. But not on this trip. And anyway, I always imagined we’d get to South Carolina when the blessed day came that we attended the Masters. We’d fly into Atlanta, drive down I-20 to Augusta, and then, just for the heck of it, drive over the Savannah River to North Augusta and SC. I’m no longer so sure we’ll ever get to the Masters. But I know we want to see Charleston. So somehow or other, we’ll make it to South Carolina.

I was stalled on 39 states for a long time. Then, in June 1999, Gail and Joel and I joined her father on a trip to Groton, South Dakota for his 60th high school reunion. We also explored Claremont and Langford, the towns near the old family farm, staying in Claremont with his sister-in-law, went over to Aberdeen for a big reunion dinner, and then spent another few days driving across the state, from Sioux Falls to Rapid City and beyond. Beyond included Wyoming, state #41. How could I pass up a visit to Devil’s Tower, which I always think of when I eat mashed potatoes? (If you don’t know the reference, I’ll leave it to you to do the research.) Then came Hawaii and Alaska, thanks to dean conferences in successive years, 2004 and 2005. And New Mexico, #44, in the fall of 2005, when I went down to Sunspot, in the Sacramento Mountains, to visit Apache Point Observatory.

What do you think? Should we make South Carolina #46? Or maybe we should wait until Jim DeMint is no longer one of its senators. Tennessee? Lots to do there.

Well, no matter. For now, we’re in Georgia, and we plan to enjoy it, despite the sub-freezing temperatures.

Categories: Travel

What Type Are You?

January 8, 2010 2 comments

Two evenings ago, my friend Chris was kind enough to pass on to me the wonderfully clever What Type Are You online test from Pentagram. Pentagram is a design services company. As they explain in their 12-23-09 entry on the webpage here, “Every Christmas since 1971, Pentagram has designed and published a small annual greetings booklet and sent it to our friends, colleagues and clients. Usually designed around a game or activity, these small books are intended to provide a diversion during the hectic holiday period.” The online test is this year’s game or activity.

When you go to the webpage to take the test, you’ll need to sign in with your name and a password. Chris let me in on the password. As far as I can tell from looking elsewhere on the web, it’s not really a secret, so I’ll let you in on it too. It’s the word ‘character’. Go take the test. You’ll be asked four questions about your personality, each requiring a choice between two alternative types. Thus there are 16 possible ways to respond to the four questions, or 16 personality types. This may sound like a Myers-Briggs Type test, and in a way it is, but there’s a clever twist. I don’t want to spoil the twist, so I’ll say no more, other than that you should be patient, as the test takes a few minutes.

Oh, one more thing. I took the test two nights ago, then watched Gail take it yesterday morning. On all four questions, we chose different types. I’m not entirely sure that was surprising, but it was fun to see the outcome.

Thanks, Chris, for sending me the test.

Categories: Design