Sunday, June 23, 2024

Italian Days

The Milan Duomo, which has been worked on for over 600 years.

TD and I on the roof of the Duomo, which is decorated with sculptures, pinnacles, spires and flying buttresses.

The cool and chic Villa Necchi.

At the charming shop Solamente Giovedi with its delightful proprietress Enrica Stabile.

Bello Lake Como.

The wedding ceremony of my nephew Aaron (right) with his beloved Brandon.

     TD and I are back from a recent, memorable trip to Italy. The main event was the wedding of my nephew Aaron to his beloved Brandon at a villa on the edge of Lake Como. But first we visited Milan. Both destinations were new to us and we had a wonderful time. 
    In Milan, we met our dear Dutch friends Jeannette and Dick from Amsterdam, and we stayed at the old world Antica Loconda Leonardo hotel in a second floor room that had a balcony overlooking the garden and courtyard below where we enjoyed breakfast in the morning. Milan is a big, bustling, working city, and we ventured on a hot day into the City Center to visit the great Duomo Cathedral and take an elevator up to it roof which is decorated with over 2,000 statues. The next day was not as hectic, with a visit to the chic and refined Villa Necchi house museum, which was the home of the stylish Necchi family that made its fortune in sewing machines. I loved the cool, spacious elegance of its rooms. 
   I'm pretty good with directions and quickly mastered the Milan trolley car system, which I like much better than an underground subway; you see so much on the street level from a trolley car. TD and I took two trolleys to get to Solamente Giovedi, a delightful shop that I have been following on Instagram. We went through a locked gate and the guard directed us through a courtyard where we ascended some steps into a shop where we met its proprietor, the extremely charming Enrica Stabile. We chatted for a while and I bought a green vintage plate which I carried home on the airplane. It now stands on our fireplace mantel and I love its bright color. Then Enrica suggested a great place for lunch two doors down. 
   On we went by train to Como for the main event - the wedding of Aaron and Brandon. There was a volley events -- a family dinner on Thursday night, a wedding cocktail party on Friday, the wedding on Saturday and a brunch on Sunday. All were lovely and wonderful.
    The wedding in particular was a dream; the boys conjured up a vision and created an unforgettable event. Saturday afternoon we arrived at Villa Pizzo perched on the edge of Lake Como and walked down an ancient gravel path to a terrace over the lake where chairs were set up for the wedding ceremony, which was officiated by Brandon's two sisters. After the ceremony, we walked back up the path to a cocktail hour set out of the lawn, all beautiful and elegant but relaxed. Then it was inside for a dinner with gorgeous pale golden flowers, delicious food by a Milanese chef, and great wines. A gifted DJ led some raucous dancing and later there was an after-party in the villa with colored lights on the ceiling. TD and I headed out to get a car back to our Airbnb around 12:30 or 1:00 am. It was all so fun and we were so happy to be there to celebrate the boys with family and friends. A couple of days later we flew home and now have great memories. Everything worked out very well - flights, hotels, reservations, trains, drivers, etc. We hadn't been to Europe for awhile and it was great to travel again and discover a special part of the world --

Sunday, April 28, 2024

In Orient, New York


        TD and I have been lucky to be introduced to the hamlet of Orient, New York, on the very eastern end of the North Fork of Long Island. We've been doing some house-sitting and pet-sitting for different friends here. The area was new to us; we had not previously visited here and it has become a favorite place. Orient was founded in pre-Revolutionary War days when five families were granted land by the British throne. Members of these families still live and own land in Orient. The area is rich in history that is carefully preserved at the Oysterpond Historical Society, which has seven buildings on its bucolic campus.
      Out on the East End, the light is clear and bright, which is why artists have always been drawn to it. When driving out to Orient, the road passes over a narrow causeway with water sparkling on both sides and the houses of Orient visible in the distance over the water on the right. Driving over the narrow causeway is almost like traveling to an island and leaving the real world behind.
     The hamlet of Orient is a completely charming with one main street called Village Lane running through it. White houses with black shutters or weathered grey houses with white trim and white picket fences create a fairy tale setting. In the spring, yellow daffodils dot the front yards and big yellow forsythia bushes bloom, so the village is all green and white and yellow and grey; there are no awkward colors that jar the eye. I love being near water and Orient is surrounded by water, with the Long Island Sound to the north and Gardiner's Bay to the south. Orient Harbor laps up along the town's shore, and the Orient Yacht Club extends out onto the water on a long narrow dock. 
    The community is dedicated to historic preservation so the area has been left largely blessedly undeveloped. Farmland stretches from the Sound down to the Bay. Vernacular farm houses have large wide front porches. All the natural, undeveloped land makes it the perfect place for wildlife to thrive. Varieties of birds sing all day long -- fat robins, red cardinals, little grey sparrows, red wing black birds. Hawks soar along the coastline looking for food. I saw a hawk overhead and a big black crow flew up behind it and hit the hawk midair and chased it away. Swans paddle in the waters and geese honk as they fly by in formation. It's a challenge now to keep the bird feeders full because the birds eat the food so quickly. 
  Bunny rabbits hop across the yard. At dusk a family of deer comes out to graze. We've seen a couple plump raccoons. The whole place is like a Walt Disney movie. 
    The sea is mesmerizing to me the way it stretches out infinitely. In Orient, the shoreline curves in arcs creating graceful coves. Farmland runs down to the sea creating beautiful maritime landscapes. Orient feels to my like up-island on Martha's Vineyard, another favorite place. The calm water meets the shore in pebbly beaches. In the summertime we put on rubber water shoes to walk into the pebbly water. It's wonderful to float in the warm still water when it's hot out. 
    In the house where we are staying now, the bright sun comes though the window in the morning, bathing me in light. The orange and pink sunsets looking north of the Long Island Sound are breathtaking. At night, a silvery full moon rises over the tall black trees in the woods. Nature speaks to me; this is a spiritual place. 
    Orient is a timeless mix of rich American history and beautiful nature -- a priceless combination for me.

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Joni Mitchell and My Brother Eric

I'm still thinking about the Grammys. It was one of the best awards shows I've seen in a long time. There were several beautiful performances including Tracy Chapman with Luke Combs, and Billie Eilish. Miley Cyrus was on fire. And then there was the luminous and miraculous Joni Mitchell who at age 80 gave her first Grammy performance. I've loved Joni Mitchell since I listened to her poetic album "Court and Spark" in my dorm room and dreamed of going to “People’s Parties.” Joni Mitchell suffered a serious brain aneurysm in 2015 that left her unable to walk or talk. At the Grammys, she performed the moving "Both Sides Now," which brought tears to the eyes of those in the audience. A few days before my brother Eric died, he sent me a text message that said that he had posted a song at the end of his latest Substack article that he thought I would like. It was "Both Sides Now." The version that was in the movie CODA. Of course it was stunning and I texted him back that I needed to see the movie. He responded, "Def." "Both Sides Now" is a rich, gorgeous song about love and loss. For me it has become a heartbreaking reminder of my brother Eric and all that we lost.

Thursday, January 4, 2024

"Maestro" Starring Bradley Cooper

        For a New Year's Day treat, TD and I went to see "Maestro" starring Bradley Cooper as the great American conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein. Wow, that's what I call a satisfying entertainment. I do recommend it. If you are in New York City, do go see it at the Paris Theater on 58th Street, which Netflix has recently renovated. The big screen is brilliant and the sound is incredible
     We bought tickets online as one does and planned to get there a little late to avoid all the previews as one does but when we arrived and slipped into our seats the picture was already starting! I guess no cheesy previews at the Paris Theater, note to self. I was surprised that the seats were not big and spacious and tilt back like you find in movie theaters now, but they were still comfortable. 
    Bradley Cooper wrote, directed, produced and stars in the movie about the great musician. In the first scene he appears as a 70-year-old Bernstein, tanned and wrinkled, and it took my breath away to realize  that it was actually Bradley Cooper, the makeover was so complete. Though Bernstein of course had an amazing career, this picture is mostly about his private life -- his marriage to actress Filicia Montealgro, played luminously by Carey Mulligan, and their children including a daughter played by Maya Hawke, who is the daughter of Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke. 
    Ok, I have an Uma Thurman story. Back in the day when I worked in the Accessories Room at Bergdorf Goodman selling hats and gloves to the ladies of the Upper East Side, Uma Thurman came in for a scarf. I showed her a beautiful gossamer cashmere and silk mushroom-colored scarf and she lowered her head and wrapped the scarf around and then lifted her gaze to reveal those big, gorgeous movie star eyes directed right at me. 
     Leonard Bernstein was famously bisexual. When I first moved to New York, my friend David hung around in Bernstein's gay circle. The movie recounts how after awhile this took a toll on Bernstein's marriage and his family. While it plums his personal life, I would like to have seen in the movie more about his professional life and the challenges and triumphs of creating his masterworks including "Candide," "West Side Story," and "Mass." There was a fun bit at the beginning of the movie that included actors playing Jerome Robbins and Aaron Copland. Betty Comden and Adolf Green show up at a party. Stephen Sondheim is mentioned. I would love to have seen more scenes like this but thoroughly enjoyed the story including a long, stunning scene at Ely Cathedral in England with Copper/Bernstein conducting Mahler's majestic Resurrection Symphony. Bradley Cooper and Carey Mulligan are both wonderful in this picture, and of course the music is gorgeous in this tribute to an American genius. I say Oscars all around.