Monday, August 9, 2010

Things I learned
on my summer vacation (2010)

The lower level of the George Washington Bridge was once informally known as the Martha Washington. Martha was on the bottom; George was on top. Really.

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Spartan Tool (“Since 1943”) has a beautiful logo.

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“The people living behind fence have seen 4 recently.” Four what? Rattlesnakes, at a rest stop in Pennsylvania.

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It is possible to drive two-thousand miles and avoid all highway-food if a thoughtful partner packs picnic lunches and dinners in an insulated bag. A tablecloth is a nice touch too. Civilization! Thank you, Elaine.

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Gobo is a terrific restaurant in Manhattan’s West Village.

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Manhattan’s S. Feldman Housewares has been doing business at the same location (1304 Madison Avenue) since 1929. S. Feldman’s store offers far greater browsing pleasure than S.R. Guggenheim’s museum.

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The bathrooms in the Guggenheim Museum are almost laughable in their near-unusability. Almost: because it’s not funny. The guy before me came out with his camera in hand. These photographs though are someone else’s. What was Frank Lloyd Wright thinking? Did he not understand nos. one and two?

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Our friend Jim can recite Dylan Thomas’s “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night.” And he did so at the White Horse Tavern, for our table.

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And — Jim made 400 chocolate truffles for a White House dinner last fall. He made 400 chocolate truffles in the White House. I’m leaving the rest for him to tell at some point, if he so chooses.

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It is possible to walk into The Hat Shop just to say hello to proprietor Linda Pagan (a college friend of our friend Luanne) and leave having ordered a great-looking hat. A men’s hat. “It’s a really good hat”: that’s what I kept saying, slightly dazed.

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Harvey’s Hardware in Needham, Massachusetts, may be the greatest hardware store in the world. Density! More density! Like S. Feldman Housewares, Harvey’s offers far greater browsing pleasure than the Guggenheim Museum.

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The Tibet Almond Stick makes a great gift. It removes furniture scratches, and your eagerness to use it will help you find scratches that you didn’t know were there.

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AfterBite stops mosquito bites from itching.

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The New England Mobile Book Fair in Newton Highlands, Massachusetts, may not be the greatest bookstore in the world, but its inventory makes it a very strong contender. (The greatest, for me: Chicago’s Seminary Co-op Bookstore.) Like S. Feldman Housewares and Harvey’s Hardware, the Book Fair offers far greater browsing pleasure than the you-know-what.

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The slang use of pad for an apartment or flat may be related to the term pied-à-terre. Then again it may not. Both possibilities were in play from early on in the vacation.

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It is possible to spend two days in Manhattan — on buses, trains, and feet — without seeing an iPad (aside from those in the Apple Store) or a Kindle. Many books though, and a few magazines. Newspapers, almost none.

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It is possible to go as long as eight days without watching even a minute of television.

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It is difficult to exaggerate the fellow-feeling of New Yorkers, evident in many small moments of care and tact. A woman on the subway lets go of her stroller for just a moment so that she can adjust her bag. Two people reach out to the stroller to steady it when the train begins to move. A man on the street asks a hot-dog vendor if it’s okay to put an empty soda can in his trash. Sure, go ahead.

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“Wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times”: Isaiah 33:6, as stated above the entrance to 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

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As recited by our friend Rob:

The old dog barks backwards without getting up.
I can remember when he was a pup.

Robert Frost, “The Span of Life”

[Photograph by Michael Leddy.]

More things I learned on my summer vacation
2009 : 2008 : 2007 : 2006

comments: 11

Other Elaine said...

Frank Lloyd Wright designed a lot of the buildings at Florida Southern College, along with its covered walkways. He was very short-statured, so his design worked well for those up to 5'5" in height, and no one else. The library (in the round) had multiple small openings 'to allow circulation of air.' And mosquitoes. The bathrooms were in the lowest level, and were just as shown in the Guggenheim, with the addition that there was no light. (Flashlights had to be issued for those going to the stacks.) FSC built a new library eventually. (The campus is spectacularly ugly, or it was in 1966-68. WE called him Frank Lloyd Wrong.)

AfterBite does not work if you are already allergic to mosquito bites. Guess how I know.

Now I want to go to Needham, MA

Michael Leddy said...

Elaine, your description makes me grateful that I went to college elsewhere. You’re not joking about the flashlights, are you?

For the interested reader, here’s an NPR story about Wright and Florida Southern.

mari said...

Excellent summer vacation essay, Michael! A+ It was more fun to read than visiting the you-know-what in the you-know-where.

Other Elaine said...

Not joking. If you wanted to be able to read the book titles, the flashlight was a necessity. FLW had not designed any custom shelving or furnishings for the unique shape, and things just...didn't work.

I will say, though, that I had some seriously good teachers at Fla Southern, including THE best math teacher ever--the one who turned on the little light bulb for me. Up til then, I had thought I was innumerate.

Michael Leddy said...

Elaine, thanks for clearing that up for me.

Thanks, Mari. Cheaper too. ($18 a ticket for the Guggenheim).

Other Elaine said...

I checked the article for the NPR bit. I recognized the color picture--the building with the large performance auditorium where weekly Chapel lectures or moderated performances took place. These were obligatory for students; the same evening or the next, the artist/performer/lecturer would have a more formal presentation open to the public. In this fashion I saw and heard symphony orchestras, instrumental soloists including an Irish harpist, a traditional Flamenco troupe, and on and on. Brilliant.
But the buildings were virtually unlivable...and not attractive. Poured concrete, let's face it, is not lovely. Oh, well!

thanks for the trip down memory lane!

Michael Leddy said...

Elaine, I think you have a blog post in the making. The cultural opportunities available on American campuses not too long ago look in retrospect quite remarkable.

Jason said...

This is always a favorite post of mine, Michael. I love this series. Thanks!

Michael Leddy said...

I’m glad that you like it, Jason. I hope you do get back to blogging again (I saw your post this morning in my reader).

Matthew W. Schmeer said...

Re: used book stores -- hands down, The Book House in Rock Hill, Missouri, a "charming Historic Victorian House, built in 1865, about 15 minutes from downtown St. Louis where an eclectic mix of quality rare, out-of-print, new, and used books are tucked into nine rooms on three floors of winding staircases, filled with nooks and crannies and a dungeon we call the "Bargain Basement".

http://www.bookhousestl.com/

This is a must-visit whenever I'm in the STL.

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks for the tip, Matthew.