Thursday, June 2, 2016

Things I learned on my summer vacation

Compass may be pronounced /ˈkəm-pəs/ or /ˈkäm-pəs/. But it appears that I am the only person in the world who uses the second pronunciation.

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The Prius’s fuel economy (already great) seems to improve as the car ages. Whether that’s due to changes in the car or changes in its drivers is unclear.

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There is always signage to rewrite: “Drug Activity Impaired Drivers” = Drug-Impaired Drivers.

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The Square and Compass Tavern once stood in Cincinnati, Ohio. (That word compass again.)

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Most purveyors of coffee will cheerfully fill a Klean Kanteen for a very modest price.

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A little farm may be called a farmette.

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Trucking companies seem to have an odd affection for antique fonts.


[Artist’s conception.]

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The Readington Diner, in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, serves excellent food. And such portions. Cajun shrimp would easily feed two. The gyros platter might serve three. Next time we will know to bring stray passers-by with us — or order less.

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We have been to Whitehouse Station twice before, once to the Ryland Inn (thank you, Luanne and Jim) and once when stopping at a Starbucks. It was Elaine who realized that Starbucks made three .

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People will mix almost anything with chocolate: Fritos, lavender, Meyer lemon, crickets, foie gras. Some combinations turn out to be delicious. Others, I am told, not so much. Crickets. Crickets.

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It’s a pity that the qualifications for working in what might be Manhattan’s best bookstore include rudeness. Don’t bother to look up when you give me the quarter needed to open the bathroom door. Oh, and pedantry.

“Where would you have books by Robert Walser? I thought he might be in the German lit section. He was Swiss and wrote in German.”

[Pointing to European Literature shelves .] “Over here.” [Insistent .] “Do you want to know why his books are here?”
Hoo boy. Is it a bookstore, or are they playing graduate school? We won’t be going back.

(P.S.: Because he was Swiss.)

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New York’s Soho resembles an enormous mall. Venerable buildings have been turned into showrooms for designer goods. It’s appalling, as are so many other developments in the new New York.

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In the West Village, Il Bambino is an excellent and inexpensive choice for lunch. I recommend the panini with roasted chicken, béarnaise mayo, mushrooms, and goat cheese ($10).

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The new Whitney Museum’s two-floor exhibition Human Interest: Portraits From the Whitney’s Collection makes for a very satisfying museum visit. Partly because of the human element, partly because of the range of materials. Among the highlights: Walker Evans and Edward Hopper. I finally got to see a Fairfield Porter painting in person, but it was not nearly as terrific as I’d hoped. (Sorry, New York School.)

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The Venus Bar and Restaurant in Passaic, New Jersey, offers a great experience in Ecuadorean and Peruvian cooking. Avocado salad! Ceviche two ways! Fried rice! Grilled everything! Bring an appetite: even the appetizers come with side dishes. Bring paper money too, so that you can tip the mariachis who come in to play for the crowd. Our bill for six people, with two appetizers, five main dishes, two pitchers of sangria, and too many side dishes to count, came to about $30 a person.

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The perfect guitar accompaniment for a trumpeter playing Miles Davis’s “Freddie Freeloader”: Freddie Green-style comping. Chonk chonk chonk chonk.

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The residence at 890 Park Avenue is eye-catching in its age and modest size. I am not the first person to notice it.

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Our friend Margie King Barab associated with avowed Marxists — namely, Groucho and Harpo. Harpo was the funnier brother.

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New Jersey Transit bus routes are beyond my understanding. The sign at the bus stop where Elaine and I wait for a bus to the Port Authority lists the 165 and 166. We have taken the 165 into the city from that stop. We have seen the 165 going up the street in the other direction as well. But the New Jersey Transit map shows the 165 never nearing our stop. And the drivers we’ve asked in the Port Authority always confirm that the 165 does not stop where we need it to stop. It’s possible that a driver here and there has the wrong route showing on the signboard. Maybe we have riding the 166 all along. But then why do the signs at the stops list the 165? A permanent flaw in the fabric of space-time.

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New Jersey Transit buses have a door on the side that can open for luggage.

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The Museum of the City of New York has a great exhibition on view through October, Roz Chast: Cartoon Memoirs. What especially moved was seeing Chast’s father’s copy of William Rose Benét’s The Reader’s Encyclopedia , a book that plays a part in Chast’s graphic memoir Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? (2014). Other terrific exhibitions too: eighteenth- and nineteenth-century portraits (got Hamilton?), New York’s Yiddish theater, and Mel Rosenthal’s photographs of life in the South Bronx. And no recorded tours! The City Museum has become my favorite museum in New York. More praise in this post.

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The northeast corner of Central Park, across from the City Museum, offers a wonderful landscape to explore. Its highlights: the Harlem Meer and the overlook that marks the site of Fort Clinton.


[As seen on the Harlem Meer. Click for a larger heron.]

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The best adventures, especially with our friends Jim and Luanne, are unpremeditated. (I knew that already.)

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Boutez en avant : “Push to the front,” or “Charge!”

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The original Brigham’s ice-cream parlor was located in Newton Highlands, Massachusetts, in a storefront that is now the home of Bread & Chocolate, a worthy successor.

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A queue box provides a safe means for cyclists to make turns at intersections. Another example of queue becoming familiar in American English.

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Tercentenary Theatre is not a theater: “Tercentenary Theatre” is a name for the center of Harvard Yard, a rather unpleasant environment for a morning-long commencement ceremony in late May: searing heat, poor or non-existent sight lines in many places, and an apparent absence of any bathroom facilities or drinking water. I am told by those who should know that year after year Harvard thinks about moving its commencement from the Yard — and that year after year the school makes the wrong choice.

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It’s possible to watch the commencement ceremony on a large screen in the comfort of a cool tent. Why is this option not publicized? Oh well.

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Harvard’s convocation and diploma ceremony, at least those for the Graduate School of Education, were beautifully organizing and moving events, with unforgettable moments. This speech, this one, and this one. I’ve already written a little about our son’s musical performance with two fellow students.

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The Florentine Cafe in Boston’s North End is an excellent restaurant.

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Bruschetta , “preferably pronounced /broo-sket-ǝ/, as in Italian. But in AmE [American English] /broo-shet-ǝ/ is disappointingly ubiquitous”: Garner’s Modern English Usage (2016).

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The Caffe Paradiso in Boston’s North End serves a spectacular cannoli. Mike’s Pastry gets the tourists. Caffe Paradiso gets speakers of Italian — and us. It was delightful to remember that we were here years ago with Rachel and Ben. Everything looks the same.

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What would you find on a scavenger hunt in Tennessee? A jar.

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Kids still count Mississippi s when playing two-on-two football. One Mississippi, two Mississippi.

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Captain Jackson’s Historic Chocolate Shop and the Printing Office of Edes & Gill are unexpected treasures in Boston’s North End. Look: they’re making hot chocolate. And printing the Declaration of Independence. Sweet freedom!

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The best adventures, especially with our friends Jim and Luanne, are unpremeditated. (I knew that already.)

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Luckombe Upper Case and Lower Case: typecase arrangements.

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The step-on trashcan was invented by Lillian Moller Gilbreth of Frank Bunker Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey’s Cheaper by the Dozen (1948).

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We should probably see The Captain’s Paradise (dir. Anthony Kimmins, 1953).

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In Newark, New York, one must have New York State identification to buy beer from a certain convenience store. (Why?) Elaine asked someone to buy a six-pack for us and paid for her iced tea to say thanks.

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If the date on the television in our Newark motel room is still wrong, it’s now January 22.

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"Those whom we love and lose are no longer where they were before. They are now wherever we are": attributed to John Chrysostom. But easy for a non-believer to agree with.

More things I learned on my summer vacation
2015 : 2014 : 2013 : 2012 : 2011 : 2010 : 2009 : 2008 : 2007 : 2006

comments: 2

csp123 said...

Sounds like a (mostly) delightful and educational summer vacation, Michael! The location of Griffin Yeatman's "tavern at the sign of the Square and Compass" is now inside Great American Ballpark (home of the Cincinnati Reds), and there's a recreational area along the riverfront named for him (Yeatman's Cove). He was a Big Cheese in early- to mid-nineteenth century Cincinnati who held several county offices over the course of his life.

I'm _sure_ that I've known other people who pronounce "compass" the way you do. Could it be an Eastern New England characteristic?

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks for the background on Griffin Yeatman.

If there are other people who say /ˈkäm-pəs/, I wish they’d speak up. :) I’m surprised to see that Merriam-Webster has the /kəm/ pronunciation first for encompass too. If I find out anything about compass and regional pronunciations, I’ll post it. So far, nothing, though I’ve looked in only a cursory way.