Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Things I learned on my summer vacation (2013)

People in cars with suspension problems look like bobbleheads. Really.

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If you are faced with an endless tie-up on I-70 in Ohio, exit the highway and find U.S. 40, the old National Road, which runs parallel to 70. Works in Indiana too.

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If, once on U.S. 40, you stop for gas at the BP station in Springfield, Ohio, and you need to use the facilities, just walk over to the Fazoli’s next door. They send people over there all the time.

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Desktop Diaries is a wonderful part of the radio show Science Friday, heard on many NPR stations. (But not on mine.)

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The work of cracking Linear B involved cigarette cartons, library slips, and stray bits of paper.

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Snobs are always in some way clueless, and their snobbery blinds them to their cluelessness: “I, clueless?”

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“CUOMO BEATS WEINER . . . and then goes limp”: a headline from the New York Post.

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New Zealand prohibits certain names for newborns. Among them: Lucifer, Mafia No Fear, and Messiah, all of which have been proposed by at least one proud New Zealand parent in the past.

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“I thought you meant breakfast bar.”

“No, I meant breakfast bar.”

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Nora Guthrie’s 1967 recording “Home Before Dark” is a strange and beautiful piece of pop music. Yes, Woody and Marjorie’s daughter.

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In the towns outside Boston, where streets and highways were never meant to accommodate the number of vehicles they now carry, traffic is worse than ever. It is dispiriting to see so many people driving into Boston on a workday morning. I imagine the earth, in protest, holding all these vehicles’ wheels, as in the Mahabharata.

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The Glass Flowers Gallery in the Harvard Museum of Natural History is a wonder to behold.

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A father to a child in the HMNH: “You don’t need anything. You have a houseful of stuff.”

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In the Glass Flowers Gallery, a boy on a school trip: “Look at this! Look at this! Look at this! Look at this! It’s beautiful!”

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Anyone puzzled by the Museum of Jurassic Technology could do worse than spend an hour or two in the HMNH. The information cards, some quite old, offer excellent examples of Proto-Museumese, the MJT’s native language.


[“Cultivated at the Botanic Garden of Glasgow, from seeds obtained by Mr. Tweedie in Tacuman, about 1830.”]

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Cardullo’s still stands in Harvard Square, and the tea is still where it was thirty or so years ago.

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Follow the Honey must be the best-smelling store in Cambridge. Friendly too, with unusual choices in music: Tommy James and the Shondells, Leadbelly. Honey seems as various as coffee, tea, or wine.

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That the site of the Boston Marathon bombing shows no trace of destruction does nothing to belie what happened.

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A mother duck and her young can manage to cross the Massachusetts Turnpike unharmed. Traffic was light, and drivers were attentive. Make way for ducklings!

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In Chelsea Market, the Manhattan Fruit Exchange has a fine salad bar. Cheapest meal we had.

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In Fort Lee, New Jersey, Bibby’s Mediterranean Café serves excellent food. I think of this restaurant as the North Jersey equivalent of Pittsburgh’s Leena’s Food — inexpensive, tiny, unpretentious, and great. A falafel throwdown seems in order.

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Things I never imagined seeing: Federico García Lorca’s guitar, in the New York Public Library. Frank O’Hara letters and manucripts, in Tibor de Nagy’s exhibition Jane Freilicher: Painter Among Poets.

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Lorca, in a letter: “New York me parece horrible pero por eso mismo me voy allí.” My translation: “New York seems horrible but that’s why I’m going.”

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Step into a gallery, a museum, a store, and “the city” (that is, New York) seems to disappear. You have stepped away from the city.

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Stand under a store awning, out of the rain, chat with others similarly stuck, and you become part of the city’s day.

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Seymour Barab’s No Laughing Matter is a one-act opera for children to perform. A synopsis, from the composer’s website: “A king takes a young bride whose natural ebullience is suppressed by the dour Council of Ministers in the name of preserving dignity in the kingdom. When the tables are turned, rejoicing prevails.” We saw a lovely performance by fourth- and fifth-graders of the Philosophy Day School. Great kids. I’m sorry that their school — which seems by any standard extraordinary — is closing.

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Margie King Barab can sing in Hungarian, beautifully. Something magical happens when, in the course of everyday life, a real singer begins to sing.

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The Forbes Galleries (62 Fifth Avenue at Twelfth Street) are worth stopping for. Through August 3, the galleries are devoted to the work of artist and cartoonist Ronald Searle.

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It is possible to live in the television series Naked City, sort of. I was amazed to learn that Jack Lee, the musical contractor for the series, played piano for the first performance of Seymour’s opera Little Red Riding Hood. In the West Village, Elaine and I went to West Fourth Street and visited the Music Inn, which turns up in one of our favorite Naked City episodes. I showed the owner his store’s television appearance. Later Elaine and I sat down in the Coffee Foundry at 186 West Fourth, the address that housed Bianchi & Margherita, another Naked City bit player. Biggest delight: 3 Sheridan Square, where Nancy Malone’s character Libby Kingston lives, is right off West Fourth Street. Who knew? Not us.

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The NJ Transit worker I met years ago at Gate 212 in the Port Authority is still on the job, and he still — it’s obvious — loves his work. He keeps everyone posted on which bus is going where, and he can spot and help an out-of-towner (like me) at a glance. I hope he had a good Memorial Day weekend.

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It feels so good to sit down on a bus after walking back to the Port Authority. (But I knew that already.)

Elaine has two three posts about our adventures: Lorca’s Guitar, No Laughing Matter, “No one looks at a flower, really. One hasn’t time.”

More things I learned on my summer vacation
2012 : 2011 : 2010 : 2009 : 2008 : 2007 : 2006

[Summer: the time between the spring and fall semesters, regardless of season.]

comments: 6

Daughter Number Three said...

Nora Guthrie was just on All Things Considered, talking about the new Woody Guthrie archive in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Michael Leddy said...

She’s a great keeper of the Guthrie legacy.

Barnaby Capel-Dunn said...

What a wonderful post, Michael. I'm now going back to see what you got up to on previous vacations!

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks, Barnaby. I’m happy that you enjoyed it.

Barnaby Capel-Dunn said...

But surely you haven't already taken your summer vacation?

Michael Leddy said...

Well, yes. This post proves it. :)