Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Things I learned
on my summer vacation

“I have two wolves in my heart. One is loving, and one is vicious, and they’re at war with each other. The grandchild is saying, Which is going to win? And the grandparent is saying, The one I feed.” [Source.]

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Rihanna has a fashion line.

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“Meat Detour Ahead.”

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“Ponding Water Possible.”

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They don’t make children’s wagons they way they used to. Today’s wagons have creature comforts.

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Gravity Hill, Pennsylvania: “Cars roll uphill and water flows the wrong way.” Uh-huh.

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“New England is only in New England.”

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Garden State Plaza in Paramus, New Jersey, is at some points the cross-country twin of the Westfield Topanga mall in Canoga Park, California. Compare the mall entrances alongside GSP’s Ruby Tuesday and WT’s Cheesecake Factory. What explains this magic? Westfield.

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My mom and I always choose crab cakes. But I knew that already. (Legal Sea Foods FTW.)

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Chock Full o’Nuts was—once again—on sale at Shop-Rite. Twelve cans to bring back to a world devoid o’Nuts.

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In the Port Authority Bus Terminal, I did not learn what the man with his midsection pressed to the Dyson hand dryer was doing. Nor did I want to.

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A glance at Joan Miró’s object assemblages — Object, for instance — is enough to see that Miró must have influenced Joseph Cornell.

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So many of the paintings at MoMA appear to have dated in ways that far older works have not. I thought of what Emerson said of Plato: “This perpetual modernness is the measure of merit, in every work of art.” Some modern art is no longer so modern. Miró is.

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The motion-activated Dyson Airblades in MoMA’s men’s bathrooms are a mess. Water comes from a middle spout. To the right and left, hand dryers. Position your wet hand the wrong way and the dryer sprays water droplets up toward your arm and face. Move your hand too far to the right while drying and a motion-activated soap dispenser kicks in. I was quick enough to dodge the soap that would have dropped onto my shirtsleeve. How can a museum with an exhibit of objects that embody good design have such lousy fixtures in its men’s bathrooms? Elaine reported no such fixtures in the women’s bathrooms.

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One set of MoMA bathrooms adds “Self-Identified” to the placards MEN and WOMEN.

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There’s a guard at the Museum of Modern Art who sharpens his pencil with a handheld sharpener while standing guard.

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It’s possible in MoMA to have a long, wide-ranging, exceptionally pleasant conversation, about everything from rents to design to the influence of weather on museum attendance, with — was he a docent or a guard? I don’t want to get anyone in trouble, so that’s all I’ll say.

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From 1943 to 1947, the Council on Books in Wartime produced Armed Forces Editions, inexpensive paperbacks for distribution to the troops. Among the titles: Great Poems from Chaucer to Whitman (ed. Louis Untermeyer) and A Wartime Whitman (ed. William A. Aiken). In other words, Whitman was a quintessential American poet.

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The Marcal Paper factory in Elmwood Park, New Jersey, burned to the ground earlier this year. The factory’s rooftop sign was a beautiful sight from Route 80.

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American Heroes Smokehouse is a barbecue restaurant with a great backstory. And great food. I wrote a review and said that we ate like happy maniacs. Elaine wrote a review, without reading mine, and said that we ate like raving lunatics. Thank you, Lu and Jim.

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[Mark Trail, May 14, 2019.]

Not me.

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Phebe’s Tavern and Grill has been in business on the Bowery since 1968, before the days of salmon burgers and quinoa salads. The building dates to 1920. Good food, modest prices, the plain wooden floor of an old establishment.

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The Bowery is quite different from my mental image of it, formed from Weegee photographs and the great movie On the Bowery (dir. Lionel Rogosin, 1956). In front of the Bowery Mission, three doddering men looked woefully out of place.

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I was happy to see Joe Brainard’s work at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery, but found little difference between seeing the drawings, paintings, and collages themselves and seeing reproductions in books. Is that good, or bad? Beats me. But I love the wit, cheer, and modesty of Brainard’s work.


[Joe Brainard, 30 Squares. 1975. 13 1/2″ × 10 1/2″. Photograph by Michael Leddy. Click for a larger view.]

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What I don’t love: hearing up close the transformation of art into dollars. “Thirty”? That means $30,000. Do those who have come to a gallery only to look typically feel invisible?

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Route 9 is a Massachusetts version of New Jersey’s Route 46.

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J&M Diner in Framingham, Massachusetts, is diner heaven. Breakfast food only, served for breakfast and lunch. I chose bacon and eggs. Elaine chose the sweet potato hash. We both chose well.

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Ben and Mari are wonderful hosts. But I knew that already.

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Mari’s plot in the community garden is a thing of beautiful abundance. Every other plot: a few seedlings here and there, or just there, or nowhere. When Mari gardens, she means it. But I knew that already.

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Ben’s work is more interesting than I knew.

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The Frank Pepe’s in Chestnut Hill is a superior Frank Pepe’s. (Quality varies greatly from location to location.) The oven at Frank Pepe’s is about the only use of coal I will defend. White clam, quattro formaggi, and spinach, mushroom, and gorgonzola: bliss.

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Naco Taco is a food truck that sits all day, seven days a week, on Boston’s Newbury Street. A torta ahogada cut into four pieces makes a nice little prelude to dinner.

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Glen Baxter has been translated into Spanish: Casi todo Baxter: Nuevas y escogidas ocurrencias.

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A thoughtful library touch, posted in the bathrooms: a page of call numbers for “sensitive subjects.” “We’re always here to help,” says the page, “but sometimes it’s hard to ask. We hope this sign will help you find what you need.” Yes, we go to the library while on vacation.

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Why did Elaine and I never think of going to Sol Azteca? Guacamole, nopalitos (cactus), mole poblano, puerco en adobo, and chicken tostadas.

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Triumphalism aside, the monologue “Growing Up Italian” is startling in its accuracy. Fig tree: my mom recalls one. “Watching the house”: that was my grandparents’ thing. The holiday menu, ending with fruit and nuts: exactly. We heard this unidentified recording on Festa Italiana, from Gannon University’s WERG FM.

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Somewhere in Ohio lives a Bentley owner with the license plate G POUPON.

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Talia knows the cadences of the alphabet song. Bah bah, bah bah, bah bah bah.

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2261.8 miles : 49.7 MPG (lots of wind) : 53 MPH.

More things I learned on my summer vacation
2018 : 2017 : 2016 : 2015 : 2014 : 2013 : 2012 : 2011 : 2010 : 2009 : 2008 : 2007 : 2006

comments: 12

The Crow said...

I've been to Gravity Hill! Mind-blowing...or, at least, mind-puzzling. It is one of only a handful such places in the entire world. It's a sensory and optical illusion, the explanation for which I have forgotten now, but - to tell the truth - I prefer the experience over the scientific explanation.

Two friends and I used to go on regular road trips to places in PA, MD and WV; so long as we could go and get back before dark. One of our trips was taken expressly to visit Gravity Hill. We stopped at a diner for lunch (weird, comical name I can't recall) in a little hole-in-the-mountainside village. Several biker-stallions (mean looking Harleys), rusted out pick-ups and one huge Massey-Ferguson that were bellied up to the front curbs almost deterred us from going in. Good thing we decided what was a road trip without a little fear and trepidation and went on in. We would have missed some of the best food we'd ever had on our trips! Plus, we had some of our preconceived notions about what kind of folks might be inside knocked right out the door. Those Harleys out front belonged to seven grandmotherly women from Tennessee, grey panthers who grew traveled in a pack for security.

So glad you posted about Gravity Hill; brought back some good memories for me.

Michael Leddy said...

Sounds like a great experience! We found a website that describes it as genuine, not an optical illusion. Thus my “Uh-huh.” :)

The Crow said...

Hmmm...I admit that it seemed real to me, but we had to be at a precise point in the road for the car to run backwards up the hill, with no acceleration or other kind of help from me, the driver. Friend Ann poured water on the macadam and darned if it didn't roll back upwards, until it soaked into the road surface. Our friend Ida, a newspaperwoman, who ruthlessly checked stories for fraud or hoaxes, found nothing except an article that suggested that area was the center of some sort of energy vortex.

Yep, uh-huh is probably right. What happened when you were there, and is the road to it more than a black-topped farm lane, as when we went?

The Crow said...

Oh...those grey ladies grew up in the same town. Don't know what happened to the rest of that sentence above.

Michael Leddy said...

We didn’t go — just looked it up after seeing a billboard. I’m sure it does seem real — it certainly does in videos. Here’s the best explanation/demonstration I can find of what’s going on.

Now that I’m curious, wouldn’t you know it? There’s not one gravity hill in Illinois. :)

The Crow said...

Eyes show brain the image, ears send balance info that doesn't match and brain comes up with best guess...still weird as hell!

That video shows terrain almost exactly like the road where we stopped. Only differences: no water feature nearby and no stripes on the road. I'd almost swear the bushes and hills were the same.

Thank you for finding the video, Michael. The explanation given at the end is pretty much what Ann told Ida and me. (Still like the mystery, the feeling something otherworldly and magical happened on Gravity Hill.)

The Crow said...

Found a listing of other such hills at Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_gravity_hills

Michael Leddy said...

It is weird as hell. It’s funny: with magic, I’m always disappointed to learn how a trick is done. Maybe it’s because I’d rather believe in magic. With this hill, I’m happy to learn why there’s an illusion. It must mean that I’d rather believe in gravity. :)

Elaine said...

There is such a hill in Florida....but the precise locale is lost to memory now.

You have such interesting vacations!

We have just moved....Arkansas is in big trouble just now, but WE didn't do it! Honest!

Michael Leddy said...

Living in downstate Illinois, we long ago figured out how to make our own fun (mostly by being curious).

Best wishes for your new place, Elaine!

Elaine said...

Impressed with Talia's "singing." I was very surprised with our Laura's early ability to sing along ("Laaa, Laaaaa, Laaaaa") with a little wind-up 'Winnie the Pooh" toy. Not having had lots of exposure to babies, I did not recognize how unusual that was, but her ear held true and of course that was valuable for her progress with the viola. (She still plays with the Vicksburg Symphonic Society.) The other thing that surprised me was the early sense of humor; we were outside on a windy day, and she began looking at me, giggling and blowing. (I think she thought I was creating the breeze, so she was responding in kind.).

That is all by way of noting that Talia is likely quite bright! (And why wouldn't she be, after all?).
I love that you share grandparenting joys.

Michael Leddy said...

Our kids were/are both very musical. Talia has the added edge of Alexa for music on demand (“Alexa, play ‘Baby Shark.’”) Her sense of humor is pretty deep. I asked her a while back, “What does a baby say?” She replied, in a deliberately babyesque voice, “Ma ma!”