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Archive for the ‘7 Quick Takes’ Category

— 1 —

And now…it gets real.  As in, with this weekend up until Christmas….whirlwind. Lots of stuff going on, but fortunately my role in most of it is check-writer and driver, which I don’t mind. 

Travel?  One, maybe two Nashville day trips, depending on the timing of a birthday party I’ve heard is in the works for next weekend.  I would like to take them to see this production of As You Like It, but would also like time to prepare the boys for it, so this weekend would be too soon, since I had no idea this production was happening until about an hour ago. 

"amy welborn"

The evening after art class, he’s still inspired.

— 2 —

When your 9-year old complains that his abs ache from the homeschool boxing workout and then goes to play with his snake, you kind of wonder how we all got to the place we are, whatever that place is.  

— 3 —

Speaking of snakes, we’re relieved to report that Rocky ate.  Finally.  Yup, that’s right.  We’ve had him for over two months, and he had not eaten up to last week.  I had been assured by The Experts On The Internet that as long as he wasn’t losing weight, it would be fine, that ball pythons can go months without eating, etc., but honestly it was getting ridiculous, and his owner was starting to really worry and have bad dreams about his snake dying, so we took a deep breath, gave up on the frozen/thawed rodents (I’d gone through a pack of two dozen, and tried everything recommended to get him to eat…he just looked away and slithered in the opposite direction, no matter what), and went and bought a live one.  That is, a mouse. Alive.  

Are you horrified?  Well, sorry.  It’s not my favorite thing, but  here we are with this snake THAT MIGHT LIVE FOR THIRTY YEARS I’M TOLD and it needs to eat, and in the wild, well, they eat living things. And I guess since I almost, you know, lost him, I probably owe him a shot at nourishment.  There are, however strong feelings about this issue on both sides in the herp community, with some feeling very strongly that feeding live rodents to snakes is, among other things, dangerous for the snakes – they could be injured by the prey.  This seems to be more of a risk with rats, who are meaner and have sharper and larger teeth and claws.  I’ll just say that the mouse…didn’t fight back.   I admit, I was so used to Rocky rejecting food that I was shocked when he struck, and not just because a snake strike is so blindingly fast.  

Of course…he was probably pretty hungry.  

(My thought on this is that Rocky was probably only fed live by his breeder – we bought him at a reptile show, and these fellows had a lot of snakes.  It seems to me it would be a major hassle to feed dozens of snakes with frozen/thawed feed – you have to thaw them, then warm them up so that the, er, prey, exudes some heat that will hopefully make the snake believe it’s alive.  To do this for a slew of snakes, all the time?  Nah.  A lot easier, I’m guessing, to feed them live and be done with it…)

(Can you believe I even know anything about it?  Pretty crazy. Well, life is all about learning and growing, I say….)

(I will also say that since we’ve had him, Rocky has shed – and that suppresses their appetites as well.  It was really very funny.  I had noticed the snake’s eyes changing color from their normal black to a greyish blue, and that he wasn’t coming out of his hide even at night.  I knew that these were signs that a shed was on the horizon, and I can’t forget the day I pointed this out to Michael.  “Look at his eyes,” was all I had to say, and he did and he JUMPED up and down in ecstatic joy and raced around the house.  “YES!  HE’S GOING TO SHED!”  We didn’t actually see it happen – we off somewhere – Charleston, I think – and when we returned ,there was the skin, now proudly displayed among various rocks, minerals and Mayan memories….)

— 4 —

So, er, what else?  Education in the Home is chugging away just fine. Herpetology, obviously. Piano lessons have begun again, the extra music theory class has begun, boxing class was experienced and will continue for at least a few more weeks despite the aching abs, art class is happening.  Math, check, Logic, check, cursive, check.   We buzzed through the Brave Writer work on The Cricket in Times Square pretty quickly and I think we’ll do Farmer Boy next. I have the Greek book, but haven’t started it yet with him – next week.  He’s working through this workbook called Meet the Great Composers.  He spends a lot of time every day reading through library books about various historical and scientific subjects.  Homeschool science center classes begin in a couple of weeks. 

Many, many rabbit holes, as per usual.   Some are just built into the discussions.  He practices extra math by working out the ages, for example, of the composers.  We have the atlas out anytime we read, tracking cities and countries.  We have an ongoing list of challenging spelling words that he’ll learn over the week, pulled from all the different things he’s studying and reading – this week, ranging from “parallel” and “perpendicular” to “Baroque” to “shrieking” (from The Cricket) 

And the videos.  For example Smarter Every Day.  This guy who does the Smarter Every Day videos – actually lives in (or around?) Huntsville, I discovered.  This video about jellyfish stinging mechanisms was fantastic. 

And I admit, having others that I trust educate the eighth grader?  A relief.  Not because he was difficult…not at all.  But just because they’ll do a fine job, and it’s good for him to be there with others, both peers and adults.  He’s also so accustomed to the warp and woof of our Teachable Moment Home that he doesn’t object at all when I, er, enhance what he says he’s learning with a video here or a book there or that we are still doing our Shakespeare memorization, albeit at a slower pace.  I have no idea what will happen for high school (I’d like to homeschool/roadschool 9th grade, but he’ll probably have his own opinions on that)  yet, but we’re good for now. 

Speaking of homeschooling, as we often do, at one of the special classes this week, I chatted with a woman who pulled her 4 school-aged kids out of a Catholics school and is homeschooling this year.  Why?  Nothing bad about the school, which is fine in every respect.  But, as she said, “They were doing homework until 9 and 10 every night, every weekend was all about projects, and the school was taking over our life.  We had no family life.”

 

— 5 —

This week’s exercise podcasts?

This documentary on Indian servicemen during World War I was fascinating- definitely worth your time.  I look forward to the second.

On the recommendation of a friend, I listened to this episode of This American Life  – about a North Carolina doctor who seeks the truth about his predecessor in the clinic where he works, a man who murdered his own father.  It was certainly absorbing, but there was one element that bothered me – I can’t really go into it without spoiling the twist for future listeners, but if you’ve listened to this one (or read the transcript), let me know in the comments.  

(I used to listen to This American Life all the time, but I stopped, I think because Ira Glass’ vocal mannerism started grating on me. Or maybe I just preferred Fred Armisen’s version instead…)

— 6 —

Reading?

I read My Two Italiesa memoir of a scholar of Italian literature born of working class Calabrian parents. The “two Italies” are, of course, his parents’ southern Italian background and the Italy represented by his more cultured intellectual pursuits.  There is another key personal detail that I think is the core of the book, but gets mostly overwhelmed by not-quite relevant material – that is, until the very end, which is quite moving.  It feels like a good, meaty Atlantic or New Yorker article expanded to book length, to the material’s detriment. 

I have just started The Restoration of Rome, a new history that is getting slammed on Amazon party because of informality in the writing, but the premise of which – the popes did what the later emperors were unable to do – intrigues me, especially as articulated by a contemporary historian.  So I’ll forge on. 

— 7 —

And…speaking of books….don’t forget this one!  I’ll be doing a few posts next week on this…promise!!

"amy welborn"

 

 

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— 1 —

GUYS!

Adventures in Assisi has dropped!  

"adventures in assisi" "amy welborn"

A month before the previously announced publication date, the newest book from me and Ann Engelhart is available for order. I was hoping to do a big post on it this week, with quirky photos of my stash of the books, but….

I don’t have any.  Yet.  There was a delivery glitch, so I haven’t even seen the published book yet.   Hopefully I’ll have them tomorrow, and then I’ll talk a lot about this book, which is much different from any St. Francis-for-Kids book out there. 

(We have also, in the last month, come to an informal agreement on another book – #5 for us!)

— 2 —

School’s going just fine…for everyone.  

The 8th grader is getting along famously, takes his homework in stride, and is enjoying his Days Spent With People Not Related To Him. 

It’s weird doing school at home with only one, though.  It’s almost too easy.  Maybe I should add calculus and make it harder.

Or not.

"amy welborn"

Feeding an ant to the Venus Flytrap

— 3 —

Speaking of math, I’m going to bore you one more time by talking up Beast Academy.  I know, you go to the website and you see comic books and you think, how challenging can that be?  

Well, plenty – you have to do both the guide and the workbook, and when you do…it’s impressive.  I’m continually amazed by the pedagogy of this series.  I think I would describe it as sneakily challenging.  The workbook pages start off with simple treatment of the matter at hand, but within a few problems have led the student to a crazily higher level of thinking.   This series and its parent, the amazing Art of Problem Solving embraces a pedagogy centered on the value of a student sitting and stewing over a problem in a fruitful way.  I would show you the pages Michael did today on angles, but I wouldn’t want to violate copyright.  Let’s just say that in a matter of ten problems, he went from simply measuring angles with a protractor to being challenged to deduce the measurements of angles without a protractor and without being given step-by-step guidance on how to do it.  

So instead of that, I’ll just point you to the material they have on their site, including these pages from the 1st 4th grade book on triangles.

— 4 —

We’ve started doing some logic, and for writing/spelling and so on, we’re going to – among other things – use the Brave Writer method again.  He’ll be doing copywork and analysis of books for which BW provides issues of “The Arrow” – see here for more about that.  The first, in keeping with our recent trip to NYC, is The Cricket in Times Square.

— 5 —

"amy welborn"

This week…music lessons began, an art lesson,.another trip to the botanical gardens, picking up where our previous visit – cut short by a hurting leg – left off.  A trip to the Birmingham Museum of Art.

(If you ever come this way, please know that both the Botanical Gardens and the Museum of Art charge no admission and are both quite fine.) 

Also, a couple of library trips.  Of course. 

"amy welborn"

Sketching at the museum, math at the library.

— 6 —

Last weekend:

At the beach for about 24 hours….wish it could have been longer….

"amy welborn"

— 7 —

Today, we caught a school presentation/performance related to an event called Earfilms, presented over the last few days at UAB.  (University of Alabama at Birmingham).  Earfilms is an aural experience in which audience members are blindfolded and listen to a mesh of live narration and recorded sound relayed in a “3d” manner – surroundsound, if you will.  The school sessions weren’t the complete performance (which is almost 90 minutes) and we were disappointed there were no blindfolds (we were just asked to close our eyes), but we did get an interesting exposure to different understandings of music and sound from members of the UAB faculty and the artists involved in Earfilms, the latter of whom were British and one of whom wore a cool hat, so there’s that:

Earfilms

After the performance, in an interactive area with one of the artists, speaking into a 3D microphone, whatever that is.

Super busy weekend with two pool parties, a dance and a sleepover. Because socialization.

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— 1 —

"amy welborn"

For today:

The Feast of the Assumption is a day of joy. God has won. Love has won. It has won life. Love has shown that it is stronger than death, that God possesses the true strength and that his strength is goodness and love.

Mary was taken up body and soul into Heaven: there is even room in God for the body. Heaven is no longer a very remote sphere unknown to us.   (Source)

But there is also another aspect: in God not only is there room for man; in man there is room for God. This too we see in Mary, the Holy Ark who bears the presence of God. In us there is space for God and this presence of God in us, so important for bringing light to the world with all its sadness, with its problems. This presence is realized in the faith: in the faith we open the doors of our existence so that God may enter us, so that God can be the power that gives life and a path to our existence. In us there is room, let us open ourselves like Mary opened herself, saying: “Let your will be done, I am the servant of the Lord”. By opening ourselves to God, we lose nothing. On the contrary, our life becomes rich and great.

And so, faith and hope and love are combined. Today there is much discussion on a better world to be awaited: it would be our hope. If and when this better world comes, we do not know, I do not know. What is certain is that a world which distances itself from God does not become better but worse. Only God’s presence can guarantee a good world. Let us leave it at that.

One thing, one hope is certain: God expects us, waits for us, we do not go out into a void, we are expected. God is expecting us and on going to that other world we find the goodness of the Mother, we find our loved ones, we find eternal Love. God is waiting for us: this is our great joy and the great hope that is born from this Feast. (Source)

By looking at Mary’s Assumption into Heaven we understand better that even though our daily life may be marked by trials and difficulties, it flows like a river to the divine ocean, to the fullness of joy and peace. We understand that our death is not the end but rather the entrance into life that knows no death. Our setting on the horizon of this world is our rising at the dawn of the new world, the dawn of the eternal day.

“Mary, while you accompany us in the toil of our daily living and dying, keep us constantly oriented to the true homeland of bliss. Help us to do as you did”.

Dear brothers and sisters, dear friends who are taking part in this celebration this morning, let us pray this prayer to Mary together. In the face of the sad spectacle of all the false joy and at the same time of all the anguished suffering which is spreading through the world, we must learn from her to become ourselves signs of hope and comfort; we must proclaim with our own lives Christ’s Resurrection.

“Help us, Mother, bright Gate of Heaven, Mother of Mercy, source through whom came Jesus Christ, our life and our joy. Amen”. (Source)

— 2 —

Would you like an exercise podcast update?  Of course you would.

This program (scroll down to 8/8) on the destruction of English religious art during the Reformation was really excellent. Presented by historian Diarmaid MacCulloch.

Great Lives has an interesting framework:  a well-known person in a certain field discusses a chosen “great life” along with a host and a scholar.

This week, I listened to a program (4/1) on cellist Jacqueline Du Pre (perhaps you saw the film Hilary and Jackie? I did..a couple of times, and loved it, even though it’s apparently – like most biopics – completely inaccurate.) The well-known person was another intriguing person – deaf solo percussionist Evelyn Glennie. Great! More rabbit holes!

I also listened to Michael Palin talk about Hemingway – Palin did one of his travel programs on Hemingway some years ago.  Enjoyed this one, too.  Both gave me a lot to think about regarding creativity and the self.

 

— 3 —

Actually started and finished a couple of books.  The Confessions of Frances Godwin which, well, I gave two stars to. Sorry.  Next was non-fiction: How Paris Became Paris, which was interesting because of the very mild myth-busting that was going on.  People like to credit/blame Haussmann for moving Paris from medievalism to modernity, but as the author of this book shows, the transformation began centuries before, mostly under King Henry IV who oversaw the construction of revolutionary public spaces like the Pont Neuf and the Place Royale.  Reading texts from 17th century travel guides was illuminating, but the book was a bit overstuffed and the content could have fit in in a meaty Atlantic or New Yorker article.

— 4 —

Speaking of reading and public spaces – I tweeted this last week, but forgot to mention it here.  Our local alt weekly, called Weld ran an excellent, thorough treatment of the murder of Father James Coyle on the steps of the Cathedral rectory almost a hundred years ago.  If you’ve never heard of this case – go read the article.  It’s an important part of our history, featuring anti-Catholicism, the Klan and future Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black.

Coyle could not have imagined that his most imminent threat was from a fellow clergyman. Edwin Stephenson was an ordained Methodist deacon who presented himself as a full-fledged minister for his primary occupation of marrying couples at the Jefferson County Courthouse (which in 1921 was on the same Third Avenue North block as St. Paul’s). He was also a member of Robert E. Lee Klavern No. 1, the first Alabama chapter of the new Ku Klux Klan.

— 5 —

Back to the Assumption – as I mentioned yesterday, don’t forget that my book Mary and the Christian Life is available for a free download.  Not for a limited time, either.  Today and probably always!

— 6 —

I know I mentioned that I sold my other house, but even now, the relief hasn’t worn off.  Once a day, I pause, and think, “Aaaaah!” – amazed at the freedom and resolved that this – the house I’m in – will be the last home I own.  No, I don’t plan on living here until I die (unless I die in the next ten years), but really and truly – when we’re done here, I’m done owning, and will be perfectly fine with renting.  It’s not ownership that gets me – it’s the burden of knowing you are going to have to sell the thing someday, and all that entails.  Plus (again, I hope we are talking far into the future), after dealing with my father’s estate, I’m determined to leave my own children with as few complications as possible, and that includes a house that has to be sold.  What we leave behind is a continual object of meditation for me.  It’s a metaphor, you know.

— 7 —

Rectify is tearing me up,but I won’t write about it until next week – the final episode.  Except to say that in a program filled with fine actors and juicy roles, Clayne Crawford as Ted, Jr is really emerging as a standout.  If you live in the South, you know Ted, Jr – the good ol’ boy/prep/poseur – he’s instantly recognizable…but then as the show has progressed, he’s become recognizable in a different way – as a confused, angry, self-doubting guy who really doesn’t know what’s hit him or his family.   So imagine my amazement just five minutes ago when I looked him to find you a good link and discovered that he’s from these parts – not that far from Birmingham.

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— 1 —

We’re back. House intact, snake alive.

"amy welborn"

BIG is a creepy movie, and he’s never seen it, but he did know about the big piano at FAO Schwarz, so here we are.

 

— 2 —

We did almost everything I wanted to do with them.  They’d been to New York City before, but had little memory of it.  It was hot, but not unbearably so. It was crowded, but once you were away from Midtown, Times Square and Fifth Avenue, it was a lot better.

"amy welborn"

St. Patrick’s from the top of Rockefeller Center – a nice view of the cruciform shape.

— 3 —

It’s expensive, though, I’ll tell you that – as if you needed to know, as if I needed a reminder.  Really, if you want to do a biggish city with lots of culture with kids and not spend so much money, and you don’t have relatives or friends to crash with in the area, Washington DC – where almost all the museums are free – is the way to go. (Also Chicago if you have local museum memberships – our McWane membership got us into both the Field and the Museum of Technology and Industry – FREE.)

Even attempts to save money here can be problematic.  We spent a big chunk of Wednesday in the American Natural History Museum – they surprised us by having an extensive and good ancient Americas collection, so yes, we spent more time than we thought there – and we went in and out a couple of times (btw, at no time did anyone look carefully or scan our tickets….).  The ticket line was horrendous – every time – first thing in the morning, when we left for lunch, and when we left for good around 3 – probably a hundred people on both sides – but I had just walked up to a kiosk and purchased ours, no wait.  I’m sure the lines were all about redeeming passes of one sort or another…too bad people have to spend part of their short time in New York waiting in lines like that….

"amy welborn"

My pre-Columbian scholar LOVED this section.

— 4 —

Food?  Well, nothing super memorable.  Shake Shack met with approval (especially by me when I discovered they serve alcohol), the arancini we snacked on in Little Italy were very good – unfortunately the way we ended up spending that day took us away from Chinatown before I could find the hand-pulled noodles I’d been hoping to get.   Excellent pizza at this by-the-slice place.  Good sandwiches from a deli behind the Natural History Museum, eaten in Roosevelt park.

"amy welborn"

No fine dining for us, but they weren’t too hungry that often.

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— 5 —

Favorite things?  I think Governor’s Island, the Brooklyn Bridge and Central Park (where we wandered – saw wildlife – Look!  It’s a RAT!” – did the rowboats and the remote control sailboats) and the Tenement Museum would top the list for all of us.

"amy welborn"

Down on the South Street Seaport, looking at Brooklyn.

 

Every counter person, sales person, museum attendant, bike rental person we encountered was very friendly and helpful.  The only rudeness was from a taxi driver who heard where I wanted to go (longish story) and scoffed.   Someone told me later not to tell them where you are going until you actually sit in the cab – then by law they have to take you.  (All’s well than ends well – the subway station was closer than I’d thought….)

— 6 —

We did see Newsies which they enjoyed but which was ultimately meh because it was, of course, the usual homogenized, musically pedestrian Disney stuff.  I couldn’t help be amused by the irony of a Disney show having as a central theme the exploitive greed of a business – as we sat in a theater where the full-priced tickets  went for $300 for a little more than 2 hours of entertainment.

(I got ours at the TKTS booth down at the South Street Seaport – decent discount.)

(On their last visit, we went to see The Thirty Nine Steps which was so inventive and delightful and held their interest, even though they were four years younger than they are now – in a more deeply engaged way than the in-your-face eardrum busting hoofing of Newsies.)

The dancing was great, the vibe was a good one for the boys, but all I can say is that last night when I got home, I watched, for the zillionth time, the opening number from On The Town…no comparison, as if anyone would expect there to be.

(BTW – a revival is coming! )


 

 

— 7 —

We went to the World Trade Center Memorial – not the museum, but the striking,  huge downward-flowing fountains constructed on and in the foundations of both buildings, both surrounded by walls in which have been etched the names of those who died there.  I found it so very moving and quite fitting.  They are fountains, rather than the cool stillness of stone, and so they powerfully convey a subtle message of hope and life.

"amy welborn"

No, we did not take selfies at the WTC memorial.

 

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— 1 —

A couple of field trips this week -one documented here – to Moundville.  The other, yesterday, was to Horse Pens 40, just about 40 minutes away.  It’s a privately-held park, campground and event space high atop a mountain.  The great attraction is an excellent boulder field (others around here that we’ve enjoyed have been at Moss Creek Preserve and Cherokee Rock Village.) These formations have made the place a favored refuge for various groups and communities over the centuries.  The name?

 

    A young couple named John and Hattie Hyatt finally settled on this land during the late 1800’s. The story is that he came from Georgia with his ‘stolen wife’ (whatever that meant), a horse, and all his earthly possessions in a flour sack. Looking for a place of refuge, the Horse Pens was a natural choice. Years later, he filed on the property, referring to it as “the home 40, the farming 40, and the horse pens 40, each tract containing 40 acres of land”. This is how Horse Pens 40 got its name. This is one of the last homesteads filed in the state of Alabama. The land patent and original title was actually signed by the President of the United States. (Actually, the signatures of two U.S. presidents turned up on documents pertaining to the property during the title search)

No one around here actually “boulders” – yet.  But who knows…

— 2 —

Movies watched over the past week: The Road to Morocco, The Road to Utopia and The Man Who Knew Too Much.  (Remake of the latter – which Hitchcock himself said was better than the first version)

It had been years since I’d seen any of the Road movies, so I did (of course) research to see what The Internet told me would be the best to start with.  The general conclusion seemed to be that Morocco was best, followed closely by Utopia.  Well, I think Utopia was far better than the other – the premise wasn’t quite as lame, Hope and Crosby’s enjoyment of each other’s company is palpable and fun, and I thought the jokes were much sharper, although I had to pause the movie several times to explain 60-year old pop culture references, and that final visual joke, while hysterical and perfect, is…awkward.

The boys were totally absorbed by The Man Who Knew Too Much, perhaps in part because it involved a little boy in peril.  As for me, I was absolutely impressed by Doris Day’s performance – it’s very strong and warm – and that scene where she sits at the piano and starts belting out Que Sera Sera at the top of her lungs so her little boy, imprisoned somewhere in the embassy, would hear her…gosh, my contacts are bothering me. Give me a minute, will you?

— 3 —

A couple of excellent reads on education:

First, a match made in heaven: Andrew Ferguson writing about Common Core:

It has to do with the old rule that supply creates its own demand. Over the last two generations, as the problem became unignorable and as vast freshets of money poured from governments and nonprofit foundations, an army of experts emerged to fix America’s schools. From trade unions and think tanks they came, from graduate schools of education and nonprofit foundations, from state education departments and for-profit corporations, from legislative offices and university psych labs and model schools and experimental classrooms, trailing spreadsheets and PowerPoints and grant proposals; they found work as lobbyists, statisticians, developmental psychologists, neurological researchers, education theorists, entrepreneurs, administrators, marketers, think tank fellows, textbook writers—even teachers! So great a mass of specialists cannot be kept idle. If they find themselves with nothing to do, they will find something to do. 

From The New Republic, “Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League.”   Even if that’s not an option or choice for you, the article is well worth a read as it dissects the thankless, soul-sucking and time-gobbling hamster wheel that high school and college have become for would be “high achievers” everywhere.

 

— 4 —

I usually find several podcasts from BBC radio worth listening to in the course of a week (although, tragically, In Our Time is on its summer hiatus until September…), and exceptional this week were:

Food Programme episode on food and opera.  It was less than thirty minutes long, but boy, did it pack a punch, employing the gifts of Fred Plotkin, opera-and-food-and-Italy writer.  I loved it.

Also the program on World War I: Cradle of Jazz might seem to waste our time, focusing on such a topic instead of the more serious aspects of World War I, but of course there is plenty of attention being given to the more fundamental aspects and will be over the next four years.  This program was actually quite absorbing, detailing the development of early jazz, the impact of the war and the   work of mostly African-American jazz musicians in Europe before and right after the War.

 

— 5 —

Today I thought we might go to Tuskegee, to the Tuskegee Airmen Museum and the George Washington Carver Museum, but then I realized it was 2 hours away and I was sort of done with driving around Alabama for the week, so after I finished writing my Living Faith Lent devotion assignment that was due today, we moseyed out to the new big Latino-food centered supermarket called Mi Pueblo.  It’s enormous – as large as or larger than the Publix down the street.  According to the linked article, it’s the largest Hispanic grocery store in Alabama, the second in the area (the first is way down in a community south of here called Pelham) and a third is planned.  It’s a great store.  A huge variety of foods, quite inexpensive produce, amazing meat counter(including goat, pig and cow heads if you like), in-house tortilleria, a counter offering fruit concoctions, a bakery and a restaurant, where we ate a great lunch from the buffet.  None of the meats on the buffet were labeled, so that was probably a good thing – they ate pretty bravely in Mexico, but still they weren’t given pause by the possibility of eating goat or pig cheeks.  It’s not near my house, but it is on the route for some activities, so it will definitely become a regular stop.

"amy welborn"

 

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

 

"amy welborn"

 

 

 

 

And then the rest of the afternoon at the pool, which I realized we hadn’t been to in a while, not only because of travels but because one of the boys had a bout of swimmer’s ear about a month ago – the first any of my kids have ever had.

— 6 —

Oh, I finally sold – as in closed and signed off on – the other house.  I was sad to see the bungalow go, even though I haven’t lived in it for a year and  I really love my not-quite-mod but still mid century place, its yard, and on behalf of the boys, the basketball goal.  Someday, I’ll live the Bungalow Life again.  Just not now.

— 7 —

Just a few more weeks and Adventures in Assisi will be published – look for more on that soon!

 

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— 1 —

We returned home from running errands and dinner, and we could have hunkered down for the evening inside, doors closed, air conditioning humming, but instead we drifted outside.  For our trouble we saw huge lovely woodpeckers and a slew of bats sweeping overhead and I heard a steady stream of most interesting information on members of the animal kingdom who dwell from the deepest points of the ocean to the most arid desert.

— 2 —

The boys watched Napoleon Dynamite for the first time  a couple of weeks ago.  I hadn’t seen it in years, and of course it lost none of its oddness during that time.

Nor had it lost any of its quotability.  Every day, I hear at least one ND callback:

Make yourself a dang kay-sa-dilla, Napoleon!

IDIOT!

How long did it take you to grow that mustache? About 2 days. 

They don’t, however, quote my favorites, which are:

Do the chickens have large talons?

and

I caught you a delicious bass. 

 

— 3 —

As I mentioned on Twitter, we watched North by Northwesthe other night and I’d forgotten how racy it is.  Awkward!  Love the Van Damme house in all its Mid Century glory.

Not complaining about Cary Grant in that towel, either.

Aside from the greatness of the film itself, what I found fascinating was the snapshot of American style, from New York westward, in the late 50’s.

But the greatest, most mesmerizing scene has nothing to do with constructed style – it’s those minutes in the midwestern (actually California) cornfield – and not just the iconic Cary Grant-chasing-crop duster.  From the moment the bus drops him off..watch the whole scene.  A human being alone, without any of the resources his position and status might afford him.  He’s dressed, but he’s stripped and he’s alone in that expanse, in the world.

What will he do? What can he do?

 

 

— 4 —

While I was in New York, I saw A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, which one the Tony for Best Musical this year, and is based on the same early 20th century novel as the Alec Guinness classic, Kind Hearts and Coronets.  For copyright reasons, they can’t make any sort of connection between play and film explicit though.

It was enjoyable – if nihilistic, but of course, we can’t blame that on the 21st century because it’s in the source material.  The main attraction, as it was in the film, is the fact that a single actor plays all the murder victims, in this case, the amazing Jefferson Mays, who was quite entertaining to watch.  If we are going to compare film and play, well…the play wins for having a far more compelling actor to play the murderer, but the film wins for the ending, which I much preferred. In both productions, the villain, it’s clear, will not get away with his crimes, but in the film it’s a subtler and grabbier, if that’s a word, which it isn’t, but too bad.  I was told, however, that in order to make the distinction between play and film quite clear (again, for copyright reasons), the endings couldn’t be the same.

— 5 —

Hmmm…about that novel.  It’s called Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal and what intrigues me is that is seems to be, in part, a satire of Edwardian anti-Semitism.  Looks like I may have to add it to the list…..

If I EVER finish No Name.   It’s FREAKING ENDLESS.  But  – I must say..I am enjoying it immensely.  It’s definitely a page-turner, and I will report when finished.  So set your calendars for March 2015.

— 6 —

Last Thursday morning, in my NYC wanderings, I wandered Chelsea.

My hotel was on west 37th – just a couple of blocks from Penn Station – and for some reason I had it in my head that Chelsea was down in Lower Manhattan – even though I’ve walked the High Line before and done some gallery strolling with Ann.  But when I was trying to figure out how to structure that day, I finally came to some comprehension of basic Manhattan Geography, and saw that I could do some Chelsea wandering, return to my hotel, check out, check my luggage with them, and then go down to lower Manhattan for the rest of the day, and make it work.

I had done a bit of research as to what was happening in the Chelsea galleries and saw that the installations at the Pace Gallery might be interesting.

They were.

Tara Donovan is the artist. 

Now, first.

I am interested in all sorts of art, from any and every era and perspective, because I’m mostly interested in human beings and the world.  I’m interested in what the world really is and how human beings live in that world, perceive it and navigate it.  Art is an expression of that, and it is what it is.  We who live out of a spiritual context might look at much of contemporary (the last century or so) art and scoff because it seems so shallow to us, so superficial.  And perhaps it is (or isn’t).  That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t attempt to understand it or we should close ourselves off from.  On the contrary. If this is how people think, so be it, and we have to understand it – or at least try.

All that is to say…if you make it, I’ll look at it, and try to understand it, and perhaps take a shot and understanding you in the process.

So that Thursday morning, I walked into the Pace, greeted the Straight-From-Central-Casting-Gallery-Vassar-Grads in their black shift dresses, then walked into the first gallery:

 

DSCN4093

DSCN4094

 

I was mesmerized.  They are constructed of note cards, they are supposed to make me ponder issues of accumulation, and they did, but they also reminded me, quite strongly, of the tent rocks and hoodoos of New Mexico. 

And then you turn the corner into the next gallery and:

 

DSCN4092

 

 

 

 

It was the most astonishing sight.  The sculpture is made of thousands of acrylic rods, but the effect is…fuzzy.  Isn’t it?

I stayed for a while, me and the two chatty security guards, but I could have stayed longer, thinking about why spend so much time, piling up tiny bits of life in order to make something else, and how beautiful those things can be.

Why indeed.

— 7 —

My daughter is living and working  in southern Germany for a while.  She bought a drindl because, as she says, you see them everywhere.  She sees women wear them to Mass and at the festivals (which are frequent), not wearing one pretty clearly marks you as a tourist..and we can’t have that!

 

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— 1 —

Almost back from NYC – perhaps by the time you read this, I will be safely back in Alabama.

Speaking of Alabama, it occurred to me today in walking around Manhattan that, even taking it proportionally, the number of men I’ve seen walking around shirtless in the middle of Alabama towns pales to the number I’ve seen in Manhattan. Today.

— 2 —

I would post a map of my walking over the past three days, but it would be nothing but a blur of blue lines over a map of the island.  I try to walk five miles a day back home for part of my exercise, and I don’t think I’ve failed to meet my quota this week.

— 3 —

The boys haven’t been with me. They have been with their Florida family.  I have been of two minds about this all week.  It’s been pleasant to be able to eat what I want without concerns about the more selective palates of other members of my family, and it’s also been good to just..wander on my own. Not going to lie about that.

But I realized early on that I missed them.  Not only did I miss them just because I missed them, but I guess I am so deep in my Travel Guide/Educator/Facilitator mode at this point in my life that I actually found it a bit difficult to adapt to solo sightseeing.  What is there to see when I don’t have someone else to show things to? It was quite revealing to me, and gave me much to think about regarding my own instincts and motivations.  I need very much to see life on my own, but also to tell others about it and help them see as well…and then more time alone to process it all.  Then it’s a complete experience.

— 4 –

Museum highlights:

The New York Historical Society. Interesting exhibits all around, but of special interest is their Bemelmans/Madeline exhibit – very sweet, in one respect, and inspiring in another.  I love to learn about the creative process, whether the creators be artists, writers, scientists or builders.  I find the dynamic of inspiration and creativity endlessly fascinating.  The exhibit on the European-born but ultimately New York-based Bemelmans took three rooms in the museum, with a generous selection of original artwork, manuscripts and some of his earlier work, and much about his life in New York – most of which concerned hotels for one reason or another.  As a person who grew up with Madeline and who has read it aloud so many times over the past thirty years that she has most of the first book memorized, this was a lovely treat.

Related – the New York Pubic Library’s exhibit on children’s books.  Well done with some omissions.  Of course, not a religiously-oriented book in sight (lest you think I’m being picky, they did feature various educational books for children, and what books have educated more children up to the 20th century that religious, mostly Bible-related books?) and, I realized after I left, no mention of N. C. Wyeth.  I responded to myself that, well, this mostly about picture books, and Wyeth illustrated mostly novels for older children and teens,  but I have to say that there was one wall – pictured below – dedicated to Edward Stratemeyer, the originator of the syndicate that produced the vast majority of super popular series books for children and teens from Nancy Drew to Tom Swift – look at the number of series (each square represents one).

So..yes..I think Wyeth should have been given a case!

"amy welborn"

http://www.nypl.org/

"amy welborn"

 

Finally, the Museum at Eldridge Street – a gorgeous Orthodox synagogue built in 1886, essentially abandoned by the 1950’s, rediscovered in the 1970’s and restored over the past twenty years.  It’s so deep in Chinatown that I kept walking and walking, convinced that Google Maps had done me wrong once again – but then there it was, standing tall between the noodle shops and foot massage services.  I was led on a mostly individualized tour by a sweet intern named Luna, who adjusted her talk down a notch when she learned I wasn’t Jewish, explaining to me what the Torah was, and such.  That was okay – I appreciated her enthusiasm.

She emphasized over and over again the poverty of most of the congregants who contributed to build this lovely place of worship and community – that it was an expression, not only of their devotion to the Lord, but also of their own strength and sense of community, as they worked hard to construct something beautiful and lasting.

"amy welborn"

 

"amy welborn"

One corner is left unfinished, not only to show the restoration process, but also as a reminder of the Temple.

 

"amy welborn"

The bimah, from which the Torah is read, faces the Ark, which holds the Torah scrolls. Faces east.

— 5 —

Speaking of such things, I made a particular effort to visit all three of the churches in the current controversy involving potential closures of certain NYC parishes: Holy Innocents, St. Francis and St. Michael’s.  I was at Holy Innocents Tuesday evening during Adoration, then today during the noon Mass, St. Francis yesterday and St. Michael’s today.  More on that tomorrow, when I’m not quite so tired.

"amy welborn"

St. Michael’s on 34th.

— 6 —

Also Old St. Patrick’s today:

"amy welborn"

 

"amy welborn"

 

"amy welborn"

— 7 —

Food:

Lunch Tuesday: Tapas at Boqueria

Dinner Tuesday: Hospitality hour at my hotel – they are working really hard because they just opened, and it was substantial!

Lunch Wednesday: Grazing at Broadway Bites: Arancini, Empanadas and summer rolls.

Dinner Wednesday: Gennaro’s

Breakfast Thursday: Pain au Raisin from Eric Kayser.  Eric Kayser is one of the more chi-chi bakeries in Paris.  I only went to one once, just to try the bread, which was said to be THE BEST – it was fine, but I was content to stick with one of the three normal, not-chi-chi but truly excellent bakeries on my block when we were in Paris.  BUT – I do adore Pain au Raisin – it was my favorite pastry during that month.  So of course, when I saw that Kayser had crossed the Atlantic, I had to go – and yes, it was just the same, and was wonderful.

Lunch Thursday: Fantastic Falafel at Taim, consumed a park across the street from the tiny restaurant, a park where children played on the climbing bars and in the water spraying from the ground, where a crew of old men played dominoes, where another man slept on a bench and a young woman, seated and wrapped in a proper salon cape, was getting her hair cut and styled by another young woman there under the trees.  An excellent slice of life. I thought, “Why don’t I live here?” But then I thought, “Because it costs a zillion dollars and they have winter.”

Thursday gelato – at the famed and trendy il laboratorio di gelato. It was nice, but nothing spectacular.  In particular the rosemary was so subtle as to be almost undetectable.  Yes, you would have to be careful, but I once made a rosemary lemon sorbet that was a knockout, with the rosemary coming through loud and clear, but still softly.

Dinner Thursday: Cafe Sabarsky with Ann.  \We did not see Yoko Ono, whom Ann had seen there at a previous visit a couple of months ago..

And after dinner, a stroll down Madison down to the Hotel Carlyle with, appropriately enough, a drink in the Bemelmans Bar – a charming (and expensive) place – the walls all painted by Bemelmans himself. It was really the perfect way to wind up the week.

One more food related take: One of the oddest things I saw over the past few days was today in Chinatown.   A woman at an outdoor food market was crouched in front of a tub of water, which was in turn, teeming with live eels.  Her purse and shopping bag next to her, she had a plastic bag sheathing her hand, with which she was reaching into the bin of eels.  She worked for several minutes, but in the time I stood there watching her – probably about five – she could never actually get one.  I thought at first she was simply being selective and trying to find the eel that was just right, but I don’t think that’s what it was – she just couldn’t grab one, proving that “slippery as an eel” is more than a metaphor.

 

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