Posts Tagged ‘art’

Click on photos in galleries for larger versions. Go to Instagram, particularly Stories, for video. I’ve compiled most of the Stories so far into Highlights.

As I mentioned the other day, I have driven in Italy before, including, to my surprise, in Palermo, a rather chaotic city, so I should have been filled with confidence about this. But I was still a bit nervous, not only about the 2-minutes-to-leave-the-airport part, but also the risk of accidentally driving in an historic zone (apparently Google Maps doesn’t account for that and has you plough right through them) and the challenge of finding parking.

(Fingers crossed) Saturday’s drive assuaged my hesitation, and reminded me of some things I had learned before, but had forgotten. Basically: road directions, including parking sites and historic zones, are very well marked here. You just have to understand and trust the signage. Also, the two basic rules of Italian driving seem to me to be: 1) Stay out of the way and 2) Don’t hesitate. Italians are attentive and aggressive drivers, and they assume you are one of them. So if you start to go…they assume you are going to keep going.

(The most useful hint I read in driving prep was that the Italian STOP sign (yes, in English, which I do not understand, except it’s a shorter word) – does not mean “come to a complete stop.” It’s more of a harder yield. That is – if there’s clearly no traffic coming…don’t stop at the stop sign. If I hadn’t have known that, I would have made a dozen or so drivers very angry yesterday, and maybe even have caused an accident. Or two.)

So anyway, I left my lovely apartment in Matera Saturday morning. Next stop would be Putignano, about 45 minutes away, but of course I couldn’t check in until 4. So it would be a day to do a little exploring of Puglia.

I decided the first stop would be the famed Alberobello, famed home of the trullli. What are trulli?

Trulli (singular, trullo) are traditional dry stone huts with a corbelled roof. Their style of construction is specific to the Itria Valley in the region of Puglia. Trulli were generally constructed as temporary field shelters and storehouses or as permanent dwellings by small-scale landowners or agricultural labourers.

Trulli were constructed from roughly worked limestone excavated on-site in the process of creating sub-floor cisterns and from boulders collected from nearby fields and rock outcrops. Characteristically, the buildings are rectangular forms with conical corbelled roofs. The whitewashed walls of the trulli are built directly onto limestone bedrock and constructed using a dry-stone wall technique (that is, without use of mortar or cement). 

Alberobello has the largest concentration of trulli in the area – 1500 structures – but the truth is, they are all over the place in this area of Puglia. I would have liked to get photos of some of them in the wild, so to speak, but there was never a good place to stop on the road where they were. Alberobello was certainly worth a visit, but I’ll also say that it was very touristy. I’m sure during the summer it can get crazy.

Anyway, some pics. Parking – easy to find, just a short walk to the center. In a paid lot, next to an olive tree.

From the Church of Sts. Cosmas and Damian . I really liked the twin sets of murals on either side, one focused on Christ and the other on Mary, accompanied by figures related to them from the Old and New Testaments, and the saints. The Stations seemed relatively modern, and I liked them.

Another church, St. Anthony, built in the style of the trulli. Had some interesting art and a regrettable (in my view) tabernacle.

These churches get a lot of visitors, especially on weekends, and it’s clear to me, they are not only there to see, but to honor and pray. People don’t just wander in – they make signs of reverence, they have their children do the same. The other day I was standing outside a church somewhere – Naples, I think – and a (young) guy puttering by on a scooter crossed himself as he passed the church.

A few more shots, including lunch, which was a panzerotti – basically a small calzone. Okay, basically a Hot Pocket. I had the “Visconte.”

Next was Locorotondo – as you might be able to tell from its name, a town known for its roundness. Unfortunately, my direction of approach didn’t give me the angle in which the shape of the boundaries are clear, but if you look it up, you can see.

I didn’t have a ton of time – so I walked around for a bit, got a sense of the place – pretty, clean – and went into two churches, one large and magnificent the other small and simple.

(Parked in a garage, very easy to find, thanks to signage, just a few steps from the center)

The first church was the church of St. George, the “mother church” of the area

One of the things I like about traveling and visiting all of these churches is that I always learn about new-to-me saints and saints-in-the-making from the area. This church highlighted two, one very much,

(Please note – the Pace flag is more of a general social-justice and, obviously, peace flag in Italy. I mean, it doesn’t fit, aesthetically, in this church, but that’s their deal, not mine.)

The local venerables?

First, Matteo Frina, a young man who died in 2009, declared venerable in 2020 – from Brindisi.

Then, Francesco Convertini, a Salesian born in the Brindisi province, baptized in this church, but who spent most of his ministry and died in India – which is where his cause is centered. But he was all over this church. He died in 1976, and was declared venerable in 2017.

Now, down in the crypt, some more contemporary art that I liked quite a bit, as well as some…storage areas.

Ah-ha. The artist who did this painting cycle in the crypt was Onofrio Bramante – who also did the Stations and the large paintings of Christ in the church in Alberobello. A famed comic book artist who devoted himself to painting – mostly religious, but with a few historic – subjects in the late ’60’s. Very interesting, and, in my untutored opinion, really fine examples of contemporary religious art.

All right – one more little tiny church:

Yes, yes, the electric candles – one just does not find real votive candles in Italy these days, it seems. Nonetheless, look how many are lit. People still need places like this, people still pray, people still stand in front of these images, fully aware that there is no magic there but also knowing that in the concrete, in the expression of the sacred, even if they don’t find answers, they can trust that they are heard.

Back in the car…onward.

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No, not that Anthony. No, not that one either. This one.

And yes, I was in Sorrento on Tuesday the 14th, his feast day, and it was a party.

(Videos on Instagram)

I can’t tell you how glad I am I decided to do it this way. I was originally going to try to get over to Sorrento from Naples on the train early Saturday morning, but as the Capri idea took shape, I thought that maybe it would be better to go directly from Capri to Sorrento and spend the night – and my AirBnB host agreed that it was a good plan.

(Just to remind you – my AirBnB for the past week + has been a room in an apartment, so it’s been…inexpensive. Even with this extra hotel room night, my total domicile expenses for the first ten days of the journey are about as much as I’d spend staying three days in, say, Charleston.)

It worked out great, saving me a leg of travel, but also giving me the great experience of having a balcony view of the procession route.

Not that I limited myself to that view. After I woke up, I went out at the appointed time to find the procession, simply following the crowds. Found it!

In the usual way with Catholic processions, the bulk of the participants are confraternity members, with their garb, their insignia and their banners. Leading the procession was a band, followed by the confraternities, then a choir, a smallish group of clergy and finally, the revered silver statue of St. Anthony.

You know, so often in these things, you can’t here it when someone’s leading prayers. This procession had a solution, which I applaud, even though I found the liturgical-like bearing of the speaker highly entertaining.

The procession had begun at the Basilica of Saint Anthony, moved through the streets of the town, stopped at the …… and then the church of (not sure if it had paused at other churches along the way), then made its way back to the basilica, where then Mass would begin at 11am.

The band played, the choir sang, bells rang, prayers were said and fireworks were set off – often at least two of those things were happening at the same time.

It was glorious. And, as I wrote in reflection on the Corpus Christi procession in Seville – this was a religious activity organized, led and performed almost entirely by the laity. As I said in that blog post, although the determination to remind us that the Eucharist is, indeed, the source and summit of our lives as Christians was worthy and important, the real-life impact was the destruction of the devotional life of Catholics, most of which had nothing to do with the clergy, leaving the supposed focus of Catholic spiritual life a clergy controlled and dominated activity.

I thought about that a lot today, and about the impact of a patronal feast like this on the life and identity of a community. Lots to process, and more to come.

The music from the choir during the procession and during Mass proves that contemporary Italian liturgical music does not, indeed, have to be cringeworthy, whiny sentimentalism. It was beautiful. (Hear it on Instagram)

There’s another statue (not the silver one) of St. Anthony in the crypt of the church. All day, including during Mass, crowds streamed into the crypt to reverence the statue, pausing before it to touch and kiss it – in front of me, a father reached up to touch the base of the statue, and then touched the forehead of his little son, who was too short to reach it himself.

As I said, this was going on during Mass, which had a solid core of a few hundred attendees, but then a constant flow on the margins, in and out, but even in the crypt, in the line to reverence the statue, people gave the responses to the Mass that was going on upstairs.

As you probably know, dogs are welcome everywhere in Italy. Three came to reverence St. Anthony while I was there.

After that main Mass, presided over by the bishop, another Mass started right away, which was confusing to me.

There was a booth set up outside the basilica for pane benedetto – blessed bread, a common tradition in Europe. But..there was no bread the crowd gathered around the booth and waited. I walked back and forth past the basilica just wandering and shopping in the area for about an hour, and every time I passed, the crowd was still waiting, the (mostly) ladies looking expectantly down one street. I supposed it came at some point, but it hadn’t, even after an hour.

These were on the streets around the cathedral. I don’t know when or how they were scattered.

There’s a Franciscan friary just down the road.

The streets were lined with vendors: Africans selling phone cases, toys and purses. Just as at an American fair, guys with head microphones demonstrating kitchen knives and floor cleaners. Lots of just…stuff: kitchenware, books, candies, nuts. Corn on the cob (on a stick) is a popular festival food here. A couple of pet stores. I think those are baby guinea pigs – do you agree?

I heard many more American voices today.

About 4, I got back on a boat to head to Naples. I could have taken the train, but these boats are very comfortable, and I didn’t think it would be crowded – and I was right.

Below: various other images from the day:

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…because from Naples, it’s not that hard.

Here’s the thing: I wanted to be in Sorrento on the 14th because it’s their patronal feast. And I am always up for a Catholic procession with statues and confraternities and such. But I also wanted to hit one of the islands: Capri, Ischia, Procida…one of them.

So I came up with the idea of taking the boat from Naples to Capri on Monday, then another boat from Capri to Sorrennto, spending the night in Sorrento so I’d be here early on the feast day, then heading back to Naples late on Tuesday. Landlady approved, so here I am tonight in Sorrento, and yes, it’s one of my favorite type of places – these mid-sized European cities with deep culture, history an community and a lightly-worn sense of sophistication that you just don’t find in the US. Padua has been my reference point in this regard, but Sorrento (so far) has the same kind of vibe. Love it. Absolutely. Love it.

So yes – I woke up a little earlier than usual this morning, packed my backpack with the essentials and set out. First, on the subway to the port area, and then on a boat to…Capri.

These boats are large, well-appointed, with plenty of actual comfortable seating. It took a little less than an hour.

There are a few target areas for tourists in Capri. The town of Anacapri, which is on the west side, and higher, Capri town, which is more to the middle and the center of lie for all the rich people who come here All the high end brands have shops here in Capri. And then there are the sea level attractions like the beaches and the Blue Grotto and simply a boat ride around the island, which I’m sure is breathtaking.

When we landed, the bulk of passengers made a beeline for tickets for the Blue Grotto and other boat tours. It was still kind of chilly, so I didn’t really have a great interest in going on an open boat for a couple of hours, so I went for the bus that would take me up to Anacapri.

(FYI – all vehicles, including buses, are small on Capri because of the narrow winding roads. In addition, most taxis are convertibles, as you can see from the photo below.)

So, crammed in a little bus, lurching up the switchbacks, arrived at Anacapri. As predicted…nothing much was open, except the shops that serve locals’ needs. Nothing else will be open until mid-March at the earliest, and the off-season is used for refurbishing, repairing and renovation – as was being done, for example, to the plaza in front of the famed San Michele church with its majolica tile floors...so that, too was closed. As was the chair lift up to Monte Solaro. As were both baggage storage places on the island (my backpack wasn’t heavy, so it wasn’t a problem).

It’s fine, I saw Views, which is the main reason I came – to get a sense of what this place was all about – clean, picturesque, gleaming white structures, and in the case of Capri town itself, very high end shopping.

Oh, and this:

What is this, you ask? Well, for forty years, Graham Greene spent a few months of every year in Capri. And this was his house – Il Rosaio. He said that he got more work done there in four months than he would in a year elsewhere.

After that achievement was locked, I decided I wanted another Good View before heading across to Capri Town. Followed one path, found it blocked by construction ripping out walkways. Went back down, walked on the road to another, found it, took photos, and discovered that there was some famed path of stairs that would lead to Capri that was supposed to be a great walk. I found the entrance – blocked off. (I’m assuming it’s blocked off for the off-season, probably because of possible damage from winter rains that they don’t want to have to monitor on the off season for the few idiots who might be coming to Capri then. Better to let the rains do their thing, spend March fixing things, and then open it up. I’m guessing.)

So that left me with a dilemma – do I walk back up the hill to Anacapri and take the bus…or do I just…walk to Capri town? The only advantage of the former would be not having to walk so much, and at the side of a narrow road with no pedestrian path. It was only about 2 km from that point, a little more than a mile, and it would be all downhill. Eh, let’s just walk it.

It was a little precarious, but as I got closer to town, I wasn’t the only one walking, so that was comforting. In addition…what do you find when you walk instead of riding?

Yes, I said a prayer for my safety….

And…I made it. Capri town had a few more things open than Anacapri, because yes, there were tourists. I didn’t mention that the boat over was full to capacity. And the news is: the Asian tour groups are back, baby. There were four large groups on Capri (that I saw) that afternoon. So they filled up the very few cafes that were open. Other than that – quiet except for workmen sawing, hammering and scraping.

I had hoped to go to the Carthusian Certosa, but – of course, closed on Mondays. But of course, viewpoints aren’t closed, and so this one, called the….was a nice spot to stop and rest, collect some welcome sunshine and breathe some clean air.

Back in the piazza, I grabbed a table for an apertif to kill time before the boat to Sorrento. I relaxed, took in the view, considered a nice contrast between all the symbols in front of me – the good food and drink, the beauty of creation, as well as mortality – expressed by what I figured was a hearse parked across the way. Well, maybe the funeral home is nearby.

Or not.

Nothing like a coffin being unloaded ten feet in front of you to put everything into perspective.
(The church was right next to the restaurant).

Okay, well then. Let’s go to Sorrento.

A quick 20-minute boat ride, and then walk up, up, up to the town (there were buses and taxis of course). The town which is lovely – my favorite kind of mid-sized Italian town – deep history and culture, community, easy social life, high quality goods, services and food. If you want to come to the area for the Pompeii/Herculaneum experience, but Naples is too much for you – Sorrento would be a wonderful base.

It’s also…a feast. As I’m typing this Tuesday morning, I’m hearing a band. I’m hoping they’re going to come down the street right in front of my hotel room, but we’ll see…


I actually chased the procession around town before I saw that they were headed to my street, so there are…lots of images coming your way. And in case you want to do your homework and learn who this St. Anthony is (not the Abbot, not Padua) – go here. Also head to Instagram in a few hours (by the end of your day on Tuesday, if you are in the US) for video.

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I am way beyond even attempting to think up clever titles for these blog posts, so sorry about that.

Reminder: Instagram has more, especially in Stories. I think tonight I’ll have the energy to do some actual posts and toss Stories into Highlights, and if that doesn’t make sense to you, you, my friend, are a far better person than the rest of us.

Click on photos to get a full-sized image.

I thought it was going to rain today. I was absolutely certain. The radar showed huge clouds off the coast, and there was no doubt it was coming right at us. So I planned my day with that in mind, focusing on indoor activities (like I’m going water skiing or something? No – but I do want to go to Herculaneum, Sorrento and one of the islands, maybe Capri.) – and during the day, my conviction about the impending showers kept me close to places where I knew I could scurry for cover if need be.

And guess what. It never rained.

Well, I saw a lot of art. There’s that.

Tourist report: same as yesterday, maybe even a little more. Still mostly Italians, although I did hear a few Americans and one Brit today and yet more huge groups of French high schoolers.

Let’s begin the day with a pastry. Oh, and a street shrine. It’s not the first I’ve had here, but it’s the first I’ve had sitting down, and therefore able to photograph, This is the most well-known Neapolitan pastry. It’s called Sfogliatella – this flaky pastry filled with warm ricotta and it’s….the best. A ricotta filling is so much better than cream. There’s another kind that isn’t flaky – it’s good too. But this is amazing.

Then to the first stop – of which I do not have photos, because none were allowed. You can see images here – it was the Sansevero Chapel/Museum – home of the well-known and quite beautiful sculpture, The Veiled Christ. It is, indeed moving to see in person, but the impact is lessened a bit by the crowd effect. It’s a small space, it’s a popular destination, and there are a lot of people milling around. So it’s not exactly the meditative experience that photographs would lead you to expect.

Equally as impressive to me was the sculpture representing Disillusion – which, in this case, is not a negative quality, but the release from yes, illusions – represented in this work by a man being freed from a net – quite incredible.

Also in the complex are the very odd “anatomical machines” – skeletons with a detailed, apparently accurate vascular system constructed around it. It was thought for some time they were actual preserved veins and arteries, but they are apparently beeswax.

Then…..the real life…Bambinelli Sunday street! San Gregorio Armeno – the street of the presepe makers! Now, it wasn’t raining, but it was cold, so I really didn’t feel like dawdling – so better photos will be coming when I return. I did step into the astonishing – partly because the exterior is so plain – San Gregorio Armeno church. Quite something.

From there I went a few blocks to the Pio Monte della Misericordia to see one of the three Caravaggio paintings here in Naples – the city where he did so much work and where he was murdered. The Pio Monte della Misericordia is an actual charitable organization, founded in 1602 to live out the Works of Mercy. More about the organization here. /

There was a small museum above the chapel – the rooms of which were also office and meeting spaces for the organization, so that was interesting. I like this painting of the Holy Family – St. Joseph’s workshop – and the desposition painting – the men handling Jesus’ body look like they are wondering to each other…what do we do now?

The table had inlays of all the works of mercy, but I couldn’t get good photos/videos because of the glare.

Lunch time – again a recommendation from my landlady. Osteria Carmela. Perfect. Charming small space – eight tables, I think – with the Madonna watching over us. Lovely waiter. Excellent food.

Surely it’s going to rain….

So up to the Madre – which is the contemporary art museum. I may not be a fan or find most of it engaging, but a lot of it is interesting, and important in what they reveal about the ways that people think and see themselves and the world. Plus it was part of the ArteCard I purchased, so it didn’t cost me anything. Extra. The main special exhibit was of an American artist, Jimmie Durham, who did a lot of work unpacking notions of identity and peoplehood, in ways that I don’t exactly understand, but intrigued me as he both critiqued colonialism, yet also questioned the notion of ethnic/racial/national identity.

Anyway, this isn’t by him, but I sat and looked at it and thought about it for a few minutes.

Still no rain. Okay, let’s go see the Degas.

Some sights along the way, including the pervasive Maradona (more on that later), a tiny, storefront typographical museum, and a “Presepe for the people.” And a shrine.

There’s a special Degas exhibit running at the San Domenico complex – the unused refectory and chapter room and such (in my wanderings, I ended up in the hall with St. Thomas Aquinas’ cell – oops.) It’s called Degas returns to Naples – and I thought the works would somehow reflect Degas’ ties to Naples (his grandfather moved to the city, married an Italian woman and had seven children. Degas studied art here and returned often) – you know, featuring art Degas created that had something to do with Naples? But perhaps he never did any such thing, because this exhibit didn’t have any – or much Naples-related art, period. So I suppose the exhibit title simply means: “We’ve brought some Degas works to Naples.”

There were some interesting drawings and lithographs, they had Satie playing much of the time I was there, so there’s that. Anyway, much reduced entry because of the ArteCard, I learned a few things, I found the secret way to Aquinas’ cell, so there’ that.

I guess…it’s not going to rain after all.

Two more stops then. First, a return to Gesu Nuovo to see the St. Giuseppe Moscati area that had been closed off when I got there yesterday – it’s a whole, small wing dedicated to him. They’ve recreated his office and his sleeping quarters, ex votos are exhibited, and there’s a display about his life. I was glad to learn more about him.

Finally – let’s do more art: the Gallerie d’Italia on via Toledo – I went for their special Artemisia Gentileschi exhibit, which was illuminating – but there was more to the museum, including Caravaggio’s last painting – The Martyrdom of Saint Ursula. That was enough, but there were other interesting works as well, many reflecting life in Naples over the centuries. I enjoyed it.

I love the way Judith is holding the sword over her shoulder, with utter confidence and strength.

I adore this painting. I can’t decide if the cleric in the middle of the practice is being tormented on purpose or he just ended up there and they surrounded him to get his opinion.

Took the metro back – this is the Toledo station – I want to go back because I think there’s an area that is even more beautiful than this – they brag on it, saying it’s the most beautiful subway station in Europe. Or the world. Who knows. We’ll see.

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More substance coming in a bit. Stay tuned.

All art today. So that’s certainly substantial. Just from other people:

Both of these are via the Art & Theology blog – updated daily for Lent, with Lent-themed works from all types of art.

Art & Theology original post

Japanese American author, speaker, and artist Makoto Fujimura has spoken extensively about kintsugi as a metaphor for human brokenness and mending in Christ. We come to Christ in fragments; he lovingly puts us back together. The scars remain, but like his, they shine.

For Bond, the kintsugi heads represent human fragility and resilience—particularly healing after grief or psychological trauma, and enlightenment gained through experience.

Exhibit website.

Elaborating on the books, Mehta’s successor at Knopf, Reagan Arthur, called the titles “unlike anything Cormac McCarthy has written before,” adding that they “represent two sides of the same narrative coin.” She noted that the internal expectation is that the books will mark “the literary event of the year.”

The Passenger, Knopf said, is about “a salvage diver, haunted by loss, afraid of the watery deep, pursued for a conspiracy beyond his understanding, and longing for a death he cannot reconcile with God.” Stella Maris is “an intimate portrait of grief and longing, as a young woman in a psychiatric facility seeks to understand her own existence.”

Sounds quite interesting.

You may or may not know that McCarthy is from Knoxville, attended the parish I did when we lived there (Immaculate Conception, downtown) and graduated from Knoxville Catholic High School, as I did.

Obviously…well, obviously that’s about all we have in common.

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—1 —

A bit of blogging this week. Perhaps of the most interest will be this post on the movie The Sound of Metal.

— 2 —

Pentecost is coming, of course.

Pages above are (left) from the Loyola Kids Book of Catholic Signs and Symbols  and (right) from the Loyola Kids Book of Bible Stories.  Click on images for larger versions. Remember that for the Signs and Symbols entry, there’s another page –  a full page of more detailed text.

— 3 —

Pentecost is one of the events in The Loyola Kids Book of Heroes. 

(The book is structured around the virtues. Each section begins with an event from Scripture that illustrates one of those virtues, followed by stories of people and events from church history that do so as well)


This hasn’t been published in a book – yet – but it’s a painting byAnn Engelhart, illustrator of several books, including four with my writing attached – all listed here. It’s a painting of the tradition of dropping rose petals through the oculus in the Pantheon in Rome.


(Our Cathedral here in Birmingham has also done this regularly over the past few years – it’s happening this coming Saturday for the Vigil of Pentecost, which will be livestreamed here.

For more on the Cathedral’s livestreaming, go here.

— 4 —

By the way, please follow Ann on Instagram. She features her beautiful art and regularly posts live painting sessions on Instagram Stories. 

— 5 –

Hopefully this weekend,  you’ll be hearing/singing/praying Veni Creator Spiritus.  I have a chapter on it in The Words We Pray. A sample:


— 6 —

Speaking of art, from Daniel Mitsui:

— 7 —

Daniel has designs available as wallpaper and fabric here. Gorgeous.

No photo description available.

And finally, here’s an excerpt from a lecture he delivered earlier this year. Food for thought for artists of all kinds – and any of us, really.

So how does an artist who wants to make religious art, who wants to make it both beautiful and traditional, to glorify God and edify men through it, answer the challenge of doing that in a changing world?

He should choose his influences – both visual and intellectual – out of love. He should love them for what they are, rather than for what they are not.

No matter how devoted he is to a certain kind of art or school of thought, he should remember that it is incomplete and imperfect. He can and should try to make it better. This is an altogether traditional thing to do.

He should be open to whatever medium, whatever materials, whatever methods work best to express his artistry. A willingness to be bold, technically, is another altogether traditional thing to do.

He should not consider religious art to be a political tool, or encourage its use as such.

He should look to every kind of art – whether it comes from within the Church or without it – asking the questions: what works? and what can this teach me to make my art better? God is the author of all beauty; as Augustine says, the mines of his providence are everywhere scattered abroad.

He should ask the same question even of art that he considers generally bad: What works? What can this teach me? The answer may be: very little. But if it is anything at all, he should accept the lesson.


For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

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Well, we are back!

Unbelievably – FORTY MINUTES EARLY last night, on a direct flight from LGA to BHM. To be hitting your own bed right at the time you were supposed to be landing? Priceless.

A flight, which, incidentally, demonstrated why BHM doesn’t get many direct flights out of here – maybe 12 passengers on a not-tiny plane?

I have one major Tedious Think Post that comes from experiences of seeing Hadestown, Billy Joel at MSG, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Old Saint Patrick’s and the “new” Saint Patrick’s. But before that, I have an article due on Monday.

As per usual with trips of over a day or so, I like to recap – more for my aging, addled, sieve-like brain than anything else. But also to help you, if you’re planning a trip!

NYC 2/16-21


Oldest “kid” lives there now (has for three years). Billy Joel was playing one of his mostly-monthly gigs at Madison Square Garden, something we’d been talking about doing for the past year. This date was perfect for us – not on a weekend and during a sort-of off season – mid February is probably about as off-season in NYC as you’re going to get – so prices and crowds were a little lower. (Although it was a vacation week for NYC school kids – why?  – so places like the Natural History Museum were mob scenes – we’ve been there a couple of times, and it was not on this week’s possibilities, but we did get off at that subway stop Tuesday morning, and geez louise, as we say down here – I was very glad we didn’t want to go there. )


I am all about price on these visits, and with that priority in mind, we’ve stayed in various spots. On brief stopovers, we’ve stayed at a Fairfield Inn in Astoria. I liked that location, actually – an interesting area, and not a bad ride in. We stayed in Long Island City once, which was okay – but I wouldn’t do it again. There was the time we stayed at a Hampton Inn in Brooklyn.

This time we stayed, as we have once before, at the Leo House on 23rd, in Chelsea. 

It has a very interesting history that you can read about here– its origins were as a guest house for recent German immigrants. It’s old – with some renovations, but still signs of age in rooms, especially the bathrooms – and it’s old-fashioned in that you turn your (real) key in at the front desk when you leave the hotel, and only registered guests are allowed in the rooms.

Because it was February, I could have gotten a decent deal on a room in “regular” hotels – chain or independent – in the city, but for five nights, I really wanted space, and sure didn’t want to spend a ton on it. Poking around the Leo House website in early January, I happened upon one of their deals. They always have discounts of one sort or another available, but this was particularly deep – for a two-bedroom room. In fact, it was the same room, the three of us (w/now-college kid) stayed in a couple of years ago. But for…cheaper. A lot. It was so low, I wasn’t completely sure it wasn’t a mistake, and went armed and ready of my printout of the receipt. No problem, as it turned out. So that was a good start.

It’s a convenient location, near subway stops that will get you anywhere in a decent amount of time. Included is  a pretty nice breakfast in a very pleasant space. And you walk to the end of the block, and this is your view:



As I said, this is more for me than you folks, but if it gives you insight into sights you’d want to see, all the better.

(Getting around – bought 7-day unlimited passes, which I think we paid for by Day 3. Mostly subway, with a couple of rather excruciating bus rides in there.)


Flight into LGA a little early. Arrived around 6:30 pm. Got a shared Lyft – very easy right outside the terminal (crazy construction around LGA for a while now that has made getting transportation complicated. Ride-sharing services are the easiest to access, which I’m sure delights the taxi drivers no end). Shared with a woman from Canada who was staying around Central Park, but luckily, our driver decided it was be best to drop us off first. In hotel, checked in by 7:30.

Met son, went to L’Express for dinner.

Then to Greenwich Village, hoping to get into a jazz club.Mezzrow proved to be just the ticket.


An hour of piano practice at a room in the National Opera Center, near our hotel.

Whitney Museum w/Ann Engelhart.

Poked around Chelsea and Gansenvoort Markets. Latter didn’t have anything that grabbed us, former was too crazy busy. Ended up at Balaboosta for lunch.

Took a bus up to Hudson Yards, saw the Vessel – no one had a driving desire to walk up, so we didn’t. Checked out the Spanish version of Eataly that’s there.

Back to hotel for a bit, then met oldest, first for a drink at Dante, then dinner at Bar Pitti with our good friend Gabriel Byrne.

Went our separate ways, the two of us then made our way up to Times Square for a bit, then back down.


Metropolitan Museum of Art via subway up to the west side of the park – that NHM stop I mentioned above – and a sort of chilly but still pleasant walk across the park to the Met.

On the bus down to Koreatown. A quick bite of fried chicken here. Then the underwhelming Sony Square space. Then subway down to Flight of the Conchords and (by bus – this one wasn’t bad)  John Wick locations (in Chinatown and the Financial District, respectively.)

Back up to hotel, then over to Washington Square/NYU area for Catholic Artists’ talk.

Subway up to Penn Station, found a DSW for some better walking shoes for kid, then subway down to Katz’s Deli (by this time it’s 10 or so) for a very late dinner, then back.


Morning: UN Tour

Bus over to Bryant Park area. Ice skating was considered, then declined. Stop at the Steinway Showroom for a few minutes in their “Experience Room.”

Subway down to Greenwich Village, for a huge hero from Faicco’s Italian Specialities. 

Decided to head back up to the Met – kid had wanted to see the Egyptian exhibits.

Back down, met oldest for pre-show food at an Italian place near our hotel.



Subway down to the Lower East Side.

Walk through Essex Market, stop to taste at the Pickle Guys.

The Museum at Eldridge Street – guided tour, learning about the history of Jewish immigration to the area.

Two food stops: Nom Wah Tea Parlor (dumplings) and 88 Lan Zhou Homemade Noodles– more dumplings and, of course, noodles.

Then to Old Saint Patrick’s, where we had the opportunity to learn about their historic organ – I had contacted the Friends of the Erben Organ group, and arranged the tour.  I’ll write more about this later, but it was a great experience to be able to see the workings of this instrument and for my son to be given a chance to play it.

Consider given support to the group that’s dedicated to restoring and preserving this important instrument!

Time for a little rest, then to meet oldest at Casa Mono, then to MSG for Billy Joel.


Time to pack up and move out – although our flight wasn’t until very late, so we still had the full day (not accidental, of course.)

Pack, check out.

Subway up to a luggage storage facility on 46th – the closest I could figure out to where we’d be going and leaving from. It was fine. It would have been more fine if it hadn’t been 20 degrees, but we lived.

Then to MOMA for their opening at 10:30. 90 minutes there, which was just about enough – we could indeed have spent longer, but we saw the core of the collection, and not in a rushed way. It’s so well-organized, that you can move very smoothly and get an excellent overview of the period (1880’s-1950’s were our main interest) in a straightforward way. We knew if we needed more later in the afternoon, we could get it in, and probably would have except for the cold. Four blocks in frigid air is a lot different than four blocks in the balmy spring.

The reason for the restriction was that I’d booked the NBC Studio Tour for 12:20. By the time I got around to it, it was the earliest available time (meaning, if I’d been able to, I would have booked it as the first activity of the day, giving more leisure for the museum…).

It was fine. Well-run, no dawdling, which I appreciate. Stupid fake talk-show making video at the end which I certainly could have done without.  Saw Tyler Perry. Well, let’s just say, that he walked by us. There was a group of men who were walking down a hall, all with an air of importance, and my focus was on the short elderly white guy in the middle of the line. As quickly as he passed, I was sort of halfway convinced it was Bloomberg, but it also didn’t make sense that it would be, for a number of different reasons (Media competitor; he should be in Nevada or SC…etc), but there was a buzz nonetheless that *someone* had been in that group of guys, and turns out it was Tyler Perry (confirmed by the tour guide and then by Someone I Know who knows someone who works in Perry’s company and he confirmed that yes, Perry was at NBC that day.)

Son was fighting a cold, and really didn’t want to walk back to MOMA (which would take us further from our bags), so we grabbed a quick lunch in Rockefeller Center, then popped into St. Patrick’s, got the bags, then pushed through to the subway station at Bryant Park, got on the 7 out to Queens.

Ann Engelhart met us at the Mets/Willets Point station with her car, then we drove to the Queens Museum, which had a lovely, informative temporary exhibit on Tiffany (the studio was in Queens) and then the crown jewel of the collection – the Panorama of New York City built for the 1964 Worlds Fair. Totally, absolutely worth it, especially if you can visit with a life-long New Yorker, as we did, who can point out her family’s various homes and give all sorts of great historic detail!

A really great and fitting end to the trip.

She then drove us to a great Greek restaurant – Agnanti– and then it was time to head to the airport!

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Let’s bullet point this. It’s faster.

  • Day began at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Oldest (NYC resident now) is a member, so we got in as guests on his membership. My main focus was the Making Marvels exhibit,which lived up to the promise. Really well done and interesting.
  • After we toured that exhibit together, we split. Kid went to wander on his own, I spent most of my time, as is my wont, in the medieval and Byzantine sections.

  • Above and below are some photos. I don’t take a lot of photos in museums (and didn’t take many today, period), but I loved the statue of St. Anne holding Mary holding Jesus (and a book of course), and the thoroughly charming nativity, with the lovely detail of Joseph warming Jesus swaddling clothes. I think the figures above him are shepherds. I’m guessing.

  • Oh – to backtrack a bit. We ended up on a subway that deposited us at the Natural History Museum stop, on the opposite side of the park from the Met. So we enjoyed a nice walk across (could have taken a bus, but why – it was chilly, but pleasant) and saw a couple of tourist gaggles gathered around squirrels, taking photos. Do they not have squirrels in Europe? (They were all European)
  • Then a very slow (is there any other kind) bus down to Koreatown, where we dashed in for the traditional bucket of fried chicken bits here. 
  • I had heard about this Sony Square space and was under the impression that it was some large play/new product space that would be entertaining for some. We walked down there, saw a line of folks corralled outside, went inside to find that it’s a Sony space, yes, but it’s very small, it changes focus every month and gee, we just missed the month of Playstation focus, and now it’s all about some K-pop band which was appearing there that very night – hence the lineup at 2pm already. Not much to do, so we moved on….
  • …down towards lower Manhattan. We had only the vaguest sense of what we were about, since I am thinking that Thursday is the day to do Chinatown. We ended up, well, in Chinatown/Little Italy. Grabbed a couple of slices of pizza, then decided that we might as well try to find Bret and Jemaine’s apartment (in Chinatown)– found it! Thought about Inner City Pressure. Might or might not have sung about it.

  • Then the other party decided he would like to see a particular John Wick location in the Wall Street area – the first one on this list. Got on a bus, got off, walked along the South Street Seaport, saw some ships, then made our way up Wall Street to find the spot. Took appropriately posed photos.  My phone was just about dead by this time, so I don’t have the photos.
  • Subway back up to the hotel for a break, then, at Ann Engelhart’s invitation,  over to NYU for a Catholic Artists Society talk by James Matthew Wilson.Very interesting and thought provoking.
  • Went with Ann up to Penn Station, where she got on her train to Long Island, and we went up 34th to the DSW to get some shoes for someone whose present shoe situation wasn’t really working for all the walking happening.  It was about 9 by then, someone was hungry, I looked it up and saw that Katz’s was open until 10:45, so one more subway ride downtown (we’ve probably come very close to getting our money’s worth out of the 7-day pass after 3 days…) and there we were. Fifteen minutes –  not much longer than it would take to drive to Chick-Fil-A back home.
  • Figured out the initially confusing ordering system (you’re given a ticket. You go to the right spot at the long counter and order what you want, the guy marks it on the ticket, you go get drinks and sides, that guy marks your ticket, and when you’re done, you either pay with card at the counter or cash at the door. It’s really not that bad – although it wasn’t busy when we were there, so the vibe was relaxed…no inner city pressure.  )
  • I wasn’t hungry, but I did get a taste of this incredibly, ridiculously tender corned beef.
  • Then back up to the room. I have no idea what we’re doing tomorrow. Maybe I’ll figure that out right now.
  • There are all kinds of ways that travel educates you. You learn about history, you learn about art, you learn about the place to which you’ve traveled – who lives there, how the place works, what the patterns and habits of life are, how people cope. It also educates you through the encounters you have with other human beings – if you’re open to those encounters. So, you can answer a question from an elderly woman who approaches you on the subway at 10:30 at night, and having answered her question, hear, in the course of five minutes, her life story, including   how she moved to NYC when both her children were enrolled at Juilliard, how they are both highly accomplished professional musicians and about the program she runs for young musicians, and oh…you’re a musician? Let me give you my assessment of all the major college music programs and my advice on what direction to go in, and this is my stop and here’s my card….good-bye!


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—1 —

Yeah, I start out each week thinking…this will be the week I blog every day and it will be substantive and awesome…and then I don’t.

The culprits this week? College Kid heading back to school for the spring semester, then getting back into Homeschool High School in a We’re Really Serious About This, Guys kind of way, music matters (practicing for church job/intensifying Brahms practice because Guess What, that’s going to be performed on the 26th – better get on that; and then heading back to jazz lessons after a two-month break…); conversations about a project or two, and of course the ever-present Trip Planning: South Florida and NYC at the moment.

And then there are the zillion interesting events that occur every day, which I try to shut out, but which find their way back to my attention – got to read the analyses and laugh at the memes….arrgh.

Thinking all the while, I have Things to Say…maybe I should write the words down.  But then events speed by so quickly, the moment passes, and, with some issues, I think, Does the world really need one more opinion drifting through the air? Nah. Probably not. 

But I promise   – that Young Pope/New Pope piece will be coming. As I said on Twitter, I may be hesitant to invite the boring yet totally predictable disapproval of my failure to disapprove of these programs, but really, after watching them, I can’t say that much of anything dramatized there is any less crazy or outrageous than the current Vatican shenanigans we’re blessed to enjoy here in the 21st century.

— 2 —

What’s going on the homeschool? Let’s make a list, quickly.

  • Reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – he’s read it before, but we think it was probably at least 2 or 3 years ago, and, as Twain himself said, it’s not a children’s book. Tom Sawyer is – but this isn’t.  Hope to get that done by the end of next week, then back to the ancients with The Odyssey.
  • Also read “The Destructors” by Graham Greene this week. If you’ve never read it – do.It’s here.And here’s a good pdf study guide. 
  • Religion: Read big chunks of the Pentateuch, Joshua and Judges, read Ruth today. Will read the appropriate material in this book for greater depth,and then start 1 Samuel next week. My favorite!
  • History: He does his own thing, which jumps between various ancient cultures and the World Wars. Next week, we’ll do a bit of Florida history in prep for a trip.
  • Biology: Still in the class taught by a college prof in the local Catholic homeschool co-op.
  • Math: Geometry via AOPS. We’ve settled down – after jumping between Counting, then a bit of Algebra II (quadratic equations) – and committed to Geometry for the rest of the school year. Right Triangles were the subject this week.
  • Music: That competition I wrote about before, which will happen over the next few months, with performance, technique and music literature analysis components. At least one Brahms performance coming up, and I’m starting to hear that there will be a jazz recital.
  • Latin: Chapters 17/18 of Latin for the New Millenium, then, per the tutor’s advice, he will hit “pause” on the text, and do focused vocab and grammar review in prep for the National Latin Exam, which he’ll take with a local group in the beginning of March.
  • Spanish: He works on his own, mostly with  Great Courses. We’re starting to think about another week in a Spanish-speaking country, maybe in the spring. Probably Costa Rica or Antigua, Guatemala.
  • Other: Fraternus, Nazareth House (catechist for developmentally disabled youth), serving dinner at a local woman’s shelter ever few weeks; probably getting back into boxing soon. Plus, of course, the church organ job.


— 3 —

This is a really good article from a secular publication (Cincinnati Magazine) on how the family of one of the Covington Catholic kids– one who wasn’t even in Washington, but was accused and doxxed – responded. It’s very inspiring.

When asked if he’s fully moved on from the doxxing, threats, and attacks, Michael says, “It sticks with me a little bit, but not really too much at all.” That said, it “has made me a lot more skeptical of social media. That, and the media, too. [It] just makes me look into facts behind different stories rather than just taking their word for it.”

Did the whole experience ruin his senior year of high school? “Even though all this happened, I would say this was probably my favorite year at CovCath,” he says, citing how the sense of brotherhood he’d always felt there somehow strengthened, in spite of everything.

Given all the Catholic undertones, there are lots of biblical stories that could speak to the lessons this whole event imparts. But maybe the moral of this particular story is better interpreted through the work of an extraordinary writer who lived and died long before the internet and social media were even invented. Flannery O’Connor, a devout Catholic, built a successful secular career writing fictional stories in the 1950s and ’60s about self-righteous people who ultimately became the very things they despised. O’Connor’s fiction was often misinterpreted as dark, for the tragic ends her characters almost always met, but in truth her overwhelming message was that healing and grace could, and often did, come from suffering and evil.

On Wednesday, January 23—the same day the Hodges hit rock bottom and Pamela came up with the idea to do a fund-raiser—the college lecturer who’d initially helped spread Michael’s name online posted a 252-word apology on her Facebook page that garnered little attention. Turns out, Andrew had reached out to her directly, explaining how the misinformation she’d helped spread had devastated the family. In the post, the lecturer took full responsibility for what she’d done, writing, “I am horrified at my own behavior as there is a child out there trying to live his life and was wrongly identified. I am now a party of the cause of his fear and misery…I am now guilty of behaviors I normally disdain. It is wrong. I did wrong to this young man.”

She is only one person of the thousands who rushed to condemn Hodge, Sandmann, and their peers. And yet, through O’Connor’s lens, maybe her bold example, paired with the GoFundMe and the way the CovCath boys grew so strong together, is nothing short of a beacon of hope.

— 4 —

“American Pilgrimage” by Stefan McDaniel, in First Things:


Back on the road, in between sung Latin rosaries and hymns, I got to know my brigade. They were disturbingly wholesome. Almost everyone was from an intensely Catholic family, yet no one, it seemed, was here out of inertia. Some had come on pilgrimage to mark a new, deliberate seriousness in their life of faith. One woman told me that her traditionalist community had shunned and slandered her after a broken engagement and she was here in part to ­reevaluate her beliefs.

Vehicular traffic was scarce, but wherever we encountered it we stopped it or slowed it down. Many motorists honked and waved encouragement; many scowled, some defying our Romanism with choice Anglo-Saxon words; and many (perhaps the greatest number) fixed us with confused stares.

We carried on till lunch, which we took at a pleasant park. A moment to rest was welcome, but it allowed our legs to freeze up. As we limped back to the road, I didn’t see how I could do this for two more miles, let alone two more days.

Near 3 p.m., we began the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy. I had always disliked this devotion, but to my surprise I joined in the recitation now with tremendous feeling. Physical pain, that concrete ­experience of my own limitations, softened my heart and brought home my need for mercy.

We arrived at our first bivouac as night fell. After setting up our tents, we were served a restorative dinner. Inhaling a good but peppery soup, I forgot my pain and delighted in the motley humanity at table with me: the Melkite priest, the man with the honest-to-God Mayan wife, the former Pentecostal sporting Carlist symbols and dressed like an alpinist. Chaucer could not have assembled a better cast.

The next morning, a Saturday, we heard Mass and began walking in the light drizzle under a gray sky—melancholy weather, but perfect for hard walking. Having used up our store of Catholic songs, my brigade turned, at my instigation, to the great common national treasury, freely mixing sacred and profane. After we had sung “Dixie” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” back-to-back (thus healing sectional divisions once and for all), we calmed down with the Joyful Mysteries.

Though we had returned to devotional themes, I remained in a reverie of patriotism. I realized that I had shaken off an anxiety that had clung to me for years. Like many Catholics of my generation, I had long wondered how I might rightly love America, having renounced the commercial, individualistic social philosophy called “Americanism.” Now, meditating on our North American Martyrs, I embraced their dream of a new Catholic civilization to be planted right here, in this land we were traversing, using their methods of husbandry: to respect, study, and refine existing virtues and institutions and order them to the Prince of Peace. What vision could be grander, or better inspire private and public virtue? Where should we find nobler Founding Fathers to revere and to imitate?


— 5 –

I was very glad to see that one of my favorite blogs, Deep Fried Kudzu, seems to be back after a hiatus. Ginger, a local, travels about the South and beyond – her interests are in food, literature, art and roadside oddities. Her notes and photos have guided my own explorations ever since we moved here. I’m glad she’s back.


— 6 —

After seeing 1917 (which we’re seeing this weekend),Bishop Barron writes a piece that I endorse 100%. He articulates what I’ve long thought – in all of our hand-wringing about the West’s loss of faith, we can blame scientism and positivism and rationalism and Communism all we want – and sure, why not? – but what about the impact of this:

For the past many years, I have been studying the phenomenon of disaffiliation and loss of faith in the cultures of the West. And following the prompts of many great scholars, I have identified a number of developments at the intellectual level—from the late Middle Ages through the Enlightenment to postmodernism—that have contributed to this decline. But I have long maintained—and the film 1917 brought it vividly back to mind—that one of the causes of the collapse of religion in Europe, and increasingly in the West generally, was the moral disaster of the First World War, which was essentially a crisis of Christian identity. Something broke in the Christian culture, and we’ve never recovered from it. If their Baptism meant so little to scores of millions of combatants in that terrible war, then what, finally, was the point of Christianity? And if it makes no concrete difference, then why not just leave it behind and move on?


— 7 —

Went to the movies tonight at our newish local art-house place, which is in the basement floor of our local food hall, which is in turn on the ground floor of a condo development which is all in a building that used to be a department store, back in the day.

The movie? Rififi – a 1955 French heist movie – very good, with a spectacular 30-minute dialogue-less set piece of, well, a jewelry store heist. That, plus the final outcome (spoiler alert) which highlights, as the best heist movie outcomes always do, the emptiness of all that hard work for ill-gotten gain, made it a satisfying couple of hours.



For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

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—1 —

Happy Christmastide and feast of St. John –if you’re around the Cathedral of St. Paul in Birmingham, Alabama at noon, you can come have some wine blessed:

Image may contain: drink

— 2 —

And then….there’s this:

Image may contain: 3 people

— 3 —

As a young person, and then youngish church geek, both employed and volunteer, I was formed in the late 60’s, 70’s and 80’s – an era in which people were forever making stuff up in the name of helping people bring faith into daily life, making it more relatable in modern times and such. When all along, what they should have been doing was rejecting the adolescent urge to reject what their parents (aka the Church) was giving them, listen, dig deeper, and see how almost two thousand years of Tradition and traditions means something. Maybe it just means that there are practices that, by their antiquity, have been experienced as powerful and, yes, pertinent to the daily joys and struggles of human beings, no matter where or when they lived.

— 4 —

Did you know that Hallmark worked with Salvador Dali to create Christmas cards? Not many were sold in the US, but here are a few articles and images.

From the Hallmark site.

From Artsy:

“It was the founder of Hallmark’s idea. Santas were always a hit,” explains historian for the Hallmark Archives Samantha Bradbeer of the anomalous, albeit wonderful Dalí painting. “Dalí’s first series of cards had just been pulled from the shelves, so he really wanted to design a popular card. He thought this might be it.” Hallmark, the biggest greeting card company in the world, had commissioned Dalí, and other up-and-coming artists of the decade, to design holiday cards earlier that year. But Dalí’s initial attempts—which depicted a headless angel, a glowing but featureless baby Jesus, and three wise men atop snarling camels—proved too avant-garde for the everyday buyer.

“Unfortunately, they just didn’t sell,” continues Bradbeer. “So that’s when Dalí asked for our founder J.C.’s advice.” Dalí’s second go, however, didn’t work out either. When the artist presented his unique Santa to Hallmark founder Joyce Clyde Hall, affectionately known as J.C., he wasn’t a fan. While Hall graciously purchased the painting for Hallmark’s permanent art collection, it was promptly stashed in a closet where it hid for many years. Only recently has it seen the light of day, on the walls of the company’s sprawling Kansas City headquarters.

From an expert on Spanish culture, more on these and the cards Dali created for Spanish markets:

This early 1948 rendition of a “Christmas” landscape, however, is but one of Dalí’s efforts to illustrate the holiday season. In 1958 he created the first of his eventual 19 greeting cards for Hoeschts, and the publishing company would annually send these artsy holiday cards to doctors and pharmacists throughout Spain. Importantly, Dalí’s renditions did not incorporate traditional Mediterranean, Catholic Christmas imagery such as the Nativity scene or the Reyes magos (Wise men), but rather they appropriated more American and Central European elements, such as the Christmas Tree. The “árbol santo” is in fact a constant element in these 19 illustrations, and Dalí occasionally converted the Christmas Tree into an allegorical depiction of the years events or infused it with distinctive elements of Spanish culture.



— 5 –

And here you go:

More images at all the links up there.

— 6 —

We have been awash in music, of course. Son #5, employed as the organist at a local parish. There’s a snippet of a postlude up on Instagram here.

— 7 —

Be sure to check out:

Christmas-related material for kids in some of my books!

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

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