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Picturing Rock and Roll – Herb Ritts at the Fenimore Art Museum

Madonna in all her natural beauty

The final week of summer vacation has arrived and with it comes a mad dash to enjoy activities and events that seemed easily achievable way back in June.
One thing I’ve had on my radar was a photography exhibit at the Fenimore Art Museum, a place I’ve never before visited. Knowing that the opportunity to see this collection of Herb Ritts’ photos was limited (the show closes 9/2) I got in my car yesterday and made the 90 minute drive to Cooperstown and boy, am I glad I did.

To begin, I don’t know much about photography or the folks who have elevated it to a fine art, but I was aware of Herb Ritts’ name and, as I learned yesterday, some of his work. I’m sure you are too. Before his death in 2002 at the age of 52, he photographed some of the most iconic celebrities and personalities of contemporary culture. Ritts also, upon urging from Madonna, became a highly sought after director of music videos eventually working with, among others, Michael and Janet Jackson, Chris Isaaks, Jennifer Lopez and Mariah Carey.

Prince, King of gold

The exhibit ($24 admission) is downstairs in a newer wing of the museum and in addition to photos, includes some cool memorabilia. I fangirled over an impeccable black suit, complete with top hat, worn by Madonna and a dress that belonged to Joan Baez, but I could see guitar players being even more impressed by the beautiful instruments on display.

Courtney Love, Framed Angel

While some of the images were familiar, with many having been originally published as covers for Rolling Stone magazine, the captions and original contact sheets added an entirely new layer of context. An accompanying video in which a number of his subjects, colleagues and his brother appeared, helped to provide details about Ritts’ motivation and process and caused my heart to break a little as I considered how many more photos he might have produced had his life not been cut short, like so many other talented individuals, by AIDS.

Sting, the first crush to inspire lust – at least for me.

After taking in the show and checking out a few other museum galleries, I thoroughly enjoyed a picnic lunch on the terrace overlooking beautiful Otsego Lake. I was unable to resist the call of the tree lined path to the lake and eventually found myself on the shore testing the water temperature and wishing for an opportunity to swim or paddle board. For that, I guess, there’s always next summer.

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Don’t worry about a thing

Wednesday evening when Stephen Marley sang that lyric I wanted to go there with him to a place where there are no worries. Releasing the weight of worry sounds amazing. All that energy previously occupied with fretting about things beyond one’s own control can be put to use so much more productively. Instead of creating scenarios of doom, our brains could be creating something beautiful. God, that would be such a nice change from beginning the morning with the latest shit Twitter storm and then being consumed with the responses and breaking news for the remainder of the day.

The Right and the Left, along with the Socialists when they’re able to participate in the war of  opinion overload, are producing so much information that it feels like an assault, a mental and emotional injury almost. It hurts.

Turn it off, you say? How does one do that? It feels to me like we’re living a reality that we’ve read about in history books, very pre-WWII. I stay connected to media because I don’t want my grandchildren to ever ask me what I did during these dark and divided days only for me to respond with “I ignored it.” Digesting, processing and trying to understand news and information these days is an excruciating job, but as invested humans we have to make an effort.

I looked around the Plaza and saw so many different and unique looking people, all together enjoying great music on a beautiful summer night. As you might imagine, “Every little thing is gonna be alright,”* is certainly a statement in which I’d like to believe. Maybe I’m focusing on the “wrong” things, universal health care, access to quality education, the acknowledgement of everyone’s equal civil rights, instead of the unemployment rate and the performance of my 403B.

Is it me or are you worried too?

*Confession: I inserted “once Trump and his ilk are gone” after every verse.

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Filed under aging, Albany, concerts, Events, musings, News, Observations, politics, stress, Uncategorized, upstate New York

Mykonos moments

When I was planning this trip to Greece, a challenging task because there are so many options and I knew nothing, I struggled to choose between Mykonos and Santorini as our indulgent (read: expensive) island. Ultimately I went with Mykonos because I thought that party atmosphere was more appropriate than a romantic setting when traveling withy son. Perhaps, Santorini will be a future excursion with a travel partner to whom I didn’t give birth.

The ferry from Naxos took nearly two hours, a bit longer than the official ferry schedule claims. We were on a small boat, but the trip was much more comfortable in significantly calmer waters. Upon arrival in the old port, we found our way to a water taxi (4 euro r/t) and made it to Mykonos Town in less than 15 minutes.

Our hotel, Ilio Maris, was a short walk through narrow and winding streets followed by long hill. The sidewalks are pretty much nonexistent, but the traffic is so heavy that no one is moving particularly fast and it was daylight. The hotel itself is very, very nice. Simple, clean, with terrific amenities including a pool and an extensive buffet breakfast included. And the view – panoramic and gorgeous. It was, by far, the most expensive (~$250) accommodations of our trip, but I rationalized that it included breakfast and I’ve spent that same amount for a night in NYC. Carpe diem.

We spent the afternoon relaxing and napping by the pool and sipping glasses of cold white wine. And water, lots of water. In the evening, we walked down to a recommended restaurant, Kounelas Fish Tavern, where we very much enjoyed a couple of small plates including grilled octopus with fava bean purée and a shrimp dish with tomato sauce, feta and bell peppers, along with more tasty white wine. With the flavor of the complimentary shot of liqueur on my lips, we made for the nearby port to capture the evening’s sunset.

Both of us were feeling pretty giggly from the wine and were happy enough to walk around people watching. We grabbed some gelato and wandered taking in the shops, smells and apparent wealth of many of whom we encountered. The people here are beautiful, but not necessarily without effort, and my son sagely noted, “Mykonos, I see what you’re all about.” After an hour or so, we agreed we were content to return to our room for the night, where I promptly passed out fell asleep.

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Filed under beauty, Boys, drinking, Eating, Europe, Food, Greece, Observations, Recommendations, Restaurants, Summer, travel, Uncategorized, vacation

Good night from Naxos

The remains of the temple of Apollo

The trip early in the morning to this island wasn’t easy. We woke up very early, quietly gathered our things and then walked to the train station. We were so efficient that we arrived earlier than anticipated and got on a train that was even before I had hoped, which gave us plenty of time to find and catch our fast ferry to Naxos.

The ferry ride was rough. There were moments when the waves came up the sides of the boat in a demonstration of why the windows did not open at all. I had opted for the fast ferry, thinking that quicker was better when it came to body discomfort, but I’m no longer quite as certain about that as I might have been previously. Luckily, I had taken one of those motion sickness pills the MD gave me and I made it through relatively unscathed. Not everyone on board seemed to have the same prescription of anti nausea medicine as I did, though, and there was some suffering to be seen, unfortunately. The sea sickness bags were readily available, distributed with kindness and disposed of without judgment.

The wind when we landed was fierce. There were moments when I did not think I could possibly beat the wind in the fight for access to the hill just outside of town where I had booked our accommodations. Somehow, with the ocean spray christening us in welcome, we made it to our studio to find that, again, we had selected another great location. Our home for the next few days was perfectly situated and comfortable – and complete with a rooftop deck.

While my son slept off his ride here, I wandered through the old city and its labyrinth of narrow, pedestrian-only streets. There was no getting lost because I had no specific destination in mind and the sounds of the sea kept me oriented.

After a couple of hours, and one of the best salads I’ve ever had, I went back to collect Griffin. Together we returned to the port area before, seeking shade, we headed back into the maze of ancient streets dotted with cafes and shops. We stopped for coffee and played some backgammon, in no rush to do anything with the only goal for the day being to catch the sunset from the roof. Goal met, it was time for dinner. I think I’m going to like it here.

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Filed under beauty, Coffee, Europe, Greece, Observations, Summer, travel, Uncategorized, vacation

Rainbows and Unicorns – thoughts during Pride Month

I don’t remember not knowing gay people. My mother had matter-of-factly told me as a young child, that sometimes women loved women and men loved men and it meant the same thing as a man and a woman loving each other. It just was. That made sense. It was simple.

When I moved to Albany and began working in local restaurants, I formed relationships with lots of gay guys. I mean, it’s the FOH industry demographic much of the time. Say what you will about stereotyping, but gay men generally have style to spare. Some of my happiest memories are of hanging out with the Yono’s crew in the late 80s and early 90s, doing a circuit from The Griffin to the (State Street)Pub to the QE2 before ending the night at the Palais. Good times with great friends with whom I remain in contact to this day.

For whatever reason, many of the former students with whom I still correspond are gay adults. I see them and their creative, successful lives and I am just so thrilled to be a witness to it. Their lives are rich and opportunities seem to be much more fairly distributed than they may have been in the not-too-distant past. The expansion of same sex marriage, and the societal benefits which come with marriage, have finally legitimized a relationship that for far too long had been considered inferior or abnormal.

Things surely are better now. We’re past all that, right?

Except, in recent days there have been a couple of incidents that have me questioning how much progress has truly been made. The first situation involved a public display of LGBTQ reading materials. From what I understand, a community member had a strong and negative response to the materials being showcased and responded with an act of vandalism. Immediately remorseful, the perpetrator offered a sincere confession and evidence of suffering from anxiety. Something about those books triggered* a person to commit violence. The story made me feel really sad.

On a sunny afternoon in Troy a few days after hearing about the act described above, I met Peggy LeGee, a transitioning woman who possesses a level of openness and enthusiasm not often seen. After I took her photo, we spent the next 10 minutes talking about her career in education, performing and art and her upcoming retirement. She was excited for her next chapter, tired from the conflict of realizing herself in an educational setting and suffering professional disciplinary actions as a consequence. It must be exhausting to have your need to express yourself met with resistance and even punishment.

These two examples may not initially seem to be related, but there’s a common theme of acceptance in each, don’t you think? Or maybe I should say, lack thereof. Why isn’t acceptance the default instead of the exception? What do you care about who someone loves? How does it impact you if a person chooses or feels compelled to present themselves as a particular gender or sexuality?

Respecting one another and our own individual need for personal expression and realization shouldn’t be as rare as a mythical beast, or merely for the month of June.

*triggered is only bested by “pushing the envelope” from being my least favorite term, but it’s the right word here.

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She’s gotta have it – the soft shell crab sandwich at New World Bistro Bar

Image: NWBB Facebook page

A couple of days ago an image came across my Facebook feed* that I couldn’t stop thinking about. It was a photo. Of a sandwich, of all things. What would make a sandwich so compelling? Well, it was a fried soft shell crab BLT served with chipotle mayo and poblano slaw. What else do I need to say?

Knowing that soft shell crab season is over in the blink of an eye, I decided last night to make my way to New World Bistro Bar for dinner. Of course, me being me, I called first to confirm that the sandwich was on the evening’s menu and that there would be one available when I arrived. You do that, too, right?

Anyway, I settled in at the bar and asked Nick to make me a Stoli gimlet, a cocktail that I thought would go swimmingly with my dinner. As has been my experience without fail, my drink was perfectly executed and delivered refreshingly cold and slightly tart. Yum.I sipped my drink and chatted with Nick about travel and music, two favorite topics for both of us, until my date arrived and we placed our dinner orders. I tweaked mine a little, opting to skip the roll and save my carb intake for the hand cut fries as my side.

A short while later I was rewarded with the gorgeous plate you see here. The crab had a meaty body and crunchy legs and was everything I had hoped it would be – and, seriously, how often in life does that happen? The mayo had a pleasant heat to it and the slaw provided a great crunch to the dish. In place of the roll, I had a combination of lettuces and some cooked greens, which were a lovely surprise.

Get it while you can, people. Tell Nick I sent you.

*how appropriate a term!

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Making connections

This image makes me happy #picasso

Until recently, I didn’t realize that one of the things that makes me happiest, is making connections. I like when things come together and add up. It feels good. Prior to having this epiphany, I hadn’t really considered the thread of connections I’ve experienced over the years. Below are a couple of recent ones which came to mind and probably helped to inspire this new self awareness I’m feeling..

Last weekend, a friend in Rome posted on the FB seeking someone visiting Rome at that moment and traveling back to the states shortly thereafter. Within 40 seconds I remembered that I had not one, but two friends currently in that exact situation! After a little social media stalking, I observed that one of my friends had departed Rome earlier in the day, but the other friend was fairly nearby and able to help with the international errand being requested. In return, Rome Friend scored seats at my favorite Trattoria for Foodie Friend doing a Favor. How amazing is that?

In a cool and delicious cafe in Northville, Sacandaga Kitchenette, Runner Friend and I talked with a neighboring couple who were lovely. Childhood sweethearts, they looked amazing and were so interesting to speak with about the race, the village we were in, their home Gloversville and, of course, Richard Russo. The wife said she had met him at an event celebrating his generous support of Gloversville’s public library. I confessed my crush. She asked if I had heard of the other author who hailed from that small and somewhat struggling city? Her mother’s cousin, Joseph Persico?

The name was so familiar, and I had a memory of working a party for Dale Miller and Stone Ends and catering an event in someone’s home. I immediately knew Persico was a nonfiction writer, but couldn’t come up with a title of one of his works without the help of Google. The Colin Powell biography rang a bell. I looked at the date it was published, 1995. Yep, that’s exactly when I worked for Dale. I had worked the book publication party at Joe Persico’s House almost 25 years ago. How funny is that?

How much of a connector are you?

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Filed under aging, Albany, Books, friends, Italy, Local, Observations, relationships, travel, Uncategorized, vacation