Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sidi Ifni, 1993

When I lived in Morocco, I took a weekend trip in February 1993 to a tiny community in the southwestern coast called Sidi Ifni. It was once a Spanish colony, and the center of town had a desolate colonial feel -- old Art Deco architecture and European-inspired parks. Spain ceded it to Morocco in 1969, and since then it's been mainly a fishing town.

I just recently rediscovered some of these photos, and a few I had reprinted from the negatives because the original prints had badly deteriorated. (African processing!)

We stayed in this hotel, the Hotel Bellevue. You can barely see the heads of my friends, Kim and Jennifer, peeking over the top of the upstairs porch railing.

The park in the center of town was called the Plaza Espana.

In the morning, the mist would roll down from the hills behind the town, giving everything a gray, foggy atmosphere.

But soon the mist would burn off and the sky would turn bright blue. Here's the town lighthouse.

And here's the old Spanish consulate, which was shuttered and derelict. I saw on Flickr recently that it still looks like this, though that tree on the left has been cut down.

I found some great beach glass in Sidi Ifni, worn smooth and round. I still have a bowl of it. I was pretty fascinated by the place, though there wasn't much to do. Back in my stamp-collecting childhood, I had some stamps from Ifni, so it was amazing to be able to say later that I'd been there!

Friday, September 24, 2010


This week I read Christopher Ciccone's book about growing up with, and working for, his sister Madonna. I know, I know -- not very literary. But I found it at Barnes & Noble on the clearance rack for $4 or so, and besides, I've always liked Madonna. I've long been impressed with her ability to continually reinvent herself.

Anyway, if his book is any indication, she sounds like a bit of a pill. She's evidently very focused and very ambitious, which isn't really surprising given the level of her success. (Christopher and Madonna have had a bit of a falling out, too, so he may have an axe to grind.)

I was impressed by her insistence on going to bed every night at 11 p.m. That's pretty much what I do -- except it's 10 p.m. for me.

Anyway, after reading the book I rented "Desperately Seeking Susan," which I remember going to see in the theaters in 1985. In one scene, Madonna talks on a pink telephone plastered with seashells, and I remembered that telephone vividly. I liked the whole bohemian feel of her city life, and it's cool to watch the same movie now, on the other side of a decade living in New York. As movies go, it's so-so. And sadly, one of Madonna's best.

(Photo: "Hotel California," Branchburg, N.J. Madonna probably would not stay here.)

Monday, September 20, 2010


Yesterday I drove out to Hunterdon County, on the Pennsylvania border, to cover a house fire that turned out to be pretty much nothing. I was glad I made the trip, though, because the countryside is beautiful -- hillier and, at the moment, more autumnal-looking than where I live. I passed this picturesque field of goldenrod outside Flemington.

Another reminder that fall is right around the corner!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Blue Hill

Well, we managed to cram quite a bit of activity into our weekend. (My weekend is now over since I work on Sundays.)

On Friday I stayed home all day, just resting and taking care of the house and the dogs. I didn't even go to the gym -- just read, watched some TV, took a nap. It was fabulous to do nothing.

Then, that evening, Dave and I went to Blue Hill, a restaurant in Greenwich Village that we've wanted to try. I actually went there about five years ago, but I didn't realize at the time what a reputation the place had. Dave and I decided to go to celebrate our civil union, my new job and the sale of my apartment (which is marching toward completion). The food was wonderful and just my style of eating -- mostly light, relatively simple and very vegetable-oriented. I got the tasting menu with wine pairings. Amazing!

Yesterday I finally hauled myself to the gym, and then we went to see "Going the Distance," the romantic comedy with Drew Barrymore and Justin Long. I liked it, even though there were about 400 things wrong with it if you watched with an even slightly critical eye.

Then we went to Barnes & Noble, where I picked up a couple of books I'd read about and wanted to try: Freedom, the new novel by Jonathan Franzen, and The Warmth of Other Suns, Isabel Wilkerson's look at the great migration of blacks from the south to the north in the early 1900s.

Finally, we went grocery shopping, came home and cooked, and watched Elizabeth Berkley in the notoriously bad "Showgirls" movie from 1995. Apparently it's now considered a camp classic, rather than just a horrible movie. I've never seen so many bare breasts in my entire life. We laughed and laughed.

(Photo: Moon and star over East Brunswick, last week.)

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Limelight

When I was in New York last week, I walked past the old church that once housed the infamous Limelight nightclub and was stunned to find that it had been turned into a mall.

The Limelight was a notorious disco and drug den in the 1990s, and was the hangout of Michael Alig and the Club Kids, who became better known for a grisly murder recounted in the film Party Monster. I have only a few personal connections to the place.

Once, in 1997 or so, I tried to go there with my friend Arthur. But we'd been walking around New York all day and we were wearing sneakers. As I recall, they turned us away at the velvet rope because our feet were not stylishly shod.

By the time I tried to go back, The Limelight was no more. It had become another nightclub called Avalon, and I went to a fundraiser for Howard Dean's presidential campaign there in 2003. I saw Gloria Gaynor perform "I Will Survive" beneath that peaked Episcopalian roof -- not to mention Howard himself and, I believe, Whoopi Goldberg.

Now, in what is surely another sign of New York's Disney-ization, it's a mall. And it's a schmantzy mall too, full of stuff like guest soaps and fragrances and scarves. Things, in short, that I would never buy.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Transistor Radio

I was driving along in my car yesterday, with my iPod plugged into my stereo, when the old Skeeter Davis song "The End of the World" came on. I got to thinking about how music from that era was made to be heard on a transistor radio. Whenever I hear old '50s or early '60s songs on an old radio, they sound so authentic. They seem to gain something from the static and the scratchy reception.

In fact, one of the things I love about antique stores is that they often have an old radio playing somewhere, usually tuned to an oldies station. Sometimes it's an old '40s playlist, with favorites like Adelaide Hall singing "As Time Goes By." Sometimes it's the '50s, with Johnny Mathis crooning "Misty." Regardless, there's something really charming about the simplicity of a transistor radio.

This is my transistor radio. It's a Panasonic "Panapet 70" radio, also known simply as a ball radio, from the early 1970s. I got it for Christmas in 1974 after begging my parents, all because Denise Long (who lived down the street) had a yellow one that I coveted. It used to have a chain with a ring on the end that you could theoretically use to carry the radio -- but mine broke off, so ultimately maybe that was a bad design idea.

I turned on my old ball radio this afternoon, and it's playing now, tuned to WCTC, an oldies station in nearby Somerset, N.J. They just finished playing "God Only Knows" by the Beach Boys and "Undun" by the Guess Who, and they're advertising a Tommy James & the Shondells concert coming up in Morristown. (Who knew he was still performing?)

Actually, this was the one music station I could find, and I was thankful for it. Most of AM radio is a wasteland these days, littered with talk stations and sports. I don't know about you, but I don't want to listen to either one.

I wonder if Denise Long still has her Panapet?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Still here!

But crazy busy! Here's an alley I passed this afternoon on a coffee
break, just to give you a Shadows & Light fix...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I'm working late tonight. In fact as I write this I'm sitting in a
quiet room waiting for a meeting to start. From the looks of things,
not a lot is going to happen.

This is going to be a bear of a week. I have night meetings every
night. Fortunately (?) Dave is working too, so at least one of us
isn't languishing at home without the other!

I went to a diner for dinner, and I had a somewhat overenthusiastic
waitress. At one point she said, "If you need any more sugar, creamer
or jelly, you just let me know." Now, look at what I had on my table.
How could I possibly need more that THAT?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Bronx Graffiti

Not much time to write today, so I'll just post some photos from a walk I took yesterday through The Bronx. Lots of great graffiti, most of it painted with the permission of building owners -- so there was lots of time for the artists to create incredible color and detail. Spectacular!

The piece above is by Dasic, who also did this piece.

Bad news about Travis, our formerly living Christmas tree. I went out to give him some water the other day and he was about 80 percent brown! It happened so quickly -- he looked fine just a week or two ago. I guess I should have been watering him more carefully through this long, hot drought. Maybe he'll pull through, but it doesn't look good.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Impromptu Picnic

This afternoon, Dave and I took a blanket out to the field behind our apartment building for an impromptu picnic. I thought it would be a good opportunity to use the "wine sticks" that Barbara sent me an embarrassingly long time ago. (Wine sticks are designed to hold your wine glasses so they won't fall over in the grass.) You can't really see them in the above photo, but they're holding our glasses slightly aloft.

Of course, we took the dogs. Ruby was mostly content to lie on the blanket and relax, as she did with Dave above.

But then Ernie had to get in on the action, and unfortunately, Ernie has a lot more energy.

Ruby was in the mood for a belly rub, so I obliged. At first, Ernie was happy to lounge nearby.

But then he realized what he was missing and got very excited. (Look at that wagging tail!)

So excited, in fact, that he crashed into the wine sticks and sent both our glasses flying. Fortunately, no broken glass -- but now we know Ernie and wine sticks don't mix!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Famous Ruby

Ruby is famous! We nominated her for upsidedowndogs.com, a Web site we heard about several months ago on Graham Norton's BBC talk show. She loves to lie upside down, so I took an iPhone pic and sent it in. Then I forgot all about it until yesterday, when the site notified me that Ruby had been published. Pretty awesome! (Though she's not nearly as extreme as some.)

I wonder who makes money from all the advertising on that site? Whose pockets am I lining?

While walking Ruby and Ernie yesterday I found a note on the roadside that obviously had been lost or discarded by some school kid. For a glimpse into the mildly raunchy but mostly silly teen-aged psyche, check out "Things Waseem Can't Say." (And don't forget part 2!)

I had another library meeting last night. Ugh! Library overload!

(Photo: Listening to the garbage, on the Lower East Side, Monday.)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Library Board

I worked late last night covering a library board meeting. There's a small controversy about the public library in the town I cover (which, in the unlikely event you're really interested, you can read about here) and the meeting ran pretty late. Then I had to get back to the office and write my story. I got home around 11 p.m.

Dave and I have been passing ships in the night this week, which I guess is how things are going to be now that we're modern DINKS (double income no kids).

On the bright side, though, I've had my mornings free. I spent yesterday lounging around, cleaning a bit, reading "Insignificant Others," the new novel by Stephen McCauley, and watching "Thirtysomething."

I must admit these old "Thirtysomething" episodes give me a melancholy feeling -- a nostalgia for the period in my life when I watched that show. I loved talking about it with my friends, at least one of whom is no longer my friend. And I looked forward to being in my 30s, when I imagined my career would blossom and I'd get to live where I wanted in the way that I wanted -- and all that happened, and now it's past. *sigh*

I don't mean to dismiss where I am now -- I like where I am and I think it's the right place for me at the moment. It's a different kind of new challenge. But I miss the aspirational relationship I had with the old "Thirtysomething," the sense that so much lay in the future, you know?

(Photo: Near Union Square, on Monday.)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Labor Day Wandering

I went into the city yesterday morning and spent the day wandering. I'd hoped that Dave could go with me, but he wasn't feeling well and wanted a day of rest, given that school begins bright and early this morning. So I hopped into Florence by myself and drove to New Brunswick, and took an early train to Penn Station.

It was a spectacular morning for photography, with great light and nice cool temperatures. The streets were relatively empty because all the New Yorkers were out of town for the Labor Day weekend (always one of my favorite times to be in Manhattan).

I experimented more with including people in my photos, like this older lady reading the New York Post in a monumental doorway.

I tried to go to the Cup & Saucer for lunch, but it was closed -- bummer! So I went to the Moonstruck Diner in the East Village and had an omelette. Then I made my way back to Penn Station and came home. I walked until my feet were sore -- my favorite, favorite way to spend a day off!

I did not visit my old apartment (which is still in contract -- we haven't closed yet) or my old neighborhood. I like visiting New York and not being anchored to one area. I also think visiting the old 'hood wouldn't be very productive -- it might just make me sad! I do feel a germ of melancholy over not being a Manhattanite anymore, even though it's so close and so easy to reach by train. But life marches on!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Asbury Park

Dave and I went to Asbury Park on Saturday with our friend Adam. We really didn't do much wandering, though -- we went to a poolside bar and had a drink, then went to an oceanside bar and had another drink, then went to dinner. By that time we were too worn out to do any more! (Ah, the joys of being 40-something.) So we came home.

Yesterday, as I worked in my office on my normal Sunday shift, some folks were filming a movie around me! Apparently the newspaper agreed to let them use the newsroom as a set. So as I sat and tried to work -- typing up a story about a guy killed by a train -- I had to wonder whether my good side was facing the camera! (Not really. I don't have a good side.)

There were about ten other people there, appearing as extras and sitting at desks around me, and even more who seemed to have no on-camera role. I've always heard that movie-making, despite its glamorous reputation, is a pretty tedious business, and now I see what they mean. There's definitely a lot of sitting around and down-time between takes.

We'll see if this production ever gets any kind of commercial release. Regardless, it was kind of fun being in the background!

(Photo: Empty in downtown Somerville, N.J.)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Office 3

Urge for Going

Today feels like fall -- crisp and even chilly. I took the dogs outside this morning and heard geese calling, and soon a flock flew overhead. One of my favorite Joni Mitchell songs came to mind:

I awoke today and found the frost perched on the town
It hovered in a frozen sky, then it gobbled summer down
When the sun turns traitor cold
and all the trees are shivering in a naked row
I get the urge for going but I never seem to go

I get the urge for going
When the meadow grass is turning brown
Summertime is falling down and winter is closing in

I had me a man in summertime
He had summer-colored skin
And not another girl in town
My darling's heart could win
But when the leaves fell on the ground, and
Bully winds came around, pushed them face down in the snow
He got the urge for going
And I had to let him go

He got the urge for going
When the meadow grass was turning brown
Summertime was falling down and winter was closing in

Now the warriors of winter they gave a cold triumphant shout
And all that stays is dying, all that lives is getting out
See the geese in chevron flight flapping and a-racing on before the snow
They've got the urge for going, and they've got the wings so they can go

They get the urge for going
When the meadow grass is turning brown
Summertime is falling down and winter is closing in

I'll ply the fire with kindling now, I'll pull the blankets up to my chin
I'll lock the vagrant winter out and bolt my wandering in
I'd like to call back summertime and have her stay for just another month or so
But she's got the urge for going and I guess she'll have to go

She gets the urge for going when the meadow grass is turning brown
And all her empire's falling down

It may be a little premature, since it's only just September and there's no frost or snow out there. But I always think of this song when the weather begins to change in the fall!

(Photo: Asbury Park, yesterday.)

Friday, September 3, 2010


Look what's turned up in the parking lot of my apartment complex -- another brand new Honda Fit, nearly identical to Florence! (Who's on the left.) I'm not sure who owns pseudo-Florence, but they certainly have good taste. They need a spoiler, though.

I know I'm being shockingly suburban, talking about my car all the time. I'll try not to make it a habit.

I'm not sure what we're going to do with our Labor Day weekend. With Earl marching up the coast we're supposed to get some rainy weather tonight and tomorrow, so I doubt we'll have much outdoor time on the agenda. Dave will probably cook tonight, and I might go into the city on Monday, depending on what the weather is doing. In any case I feel like I need to exercise my creative muscles, maybe take some pictures. We'll see!

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Not much to tell this week, which is why I haven't been writing with my "office" photos. In fact I've been holding off posting because there's a third office photo I want to take, but I haven't been able yet. I'll get around to it eventually. I have to be in the office at just the right time, and I have to figure out how to do it without my coworkers realizing what a freak I am.

Some of you asked why my car is named Florence. There really is no reason, except Florence nicely alliterates with Fit, so I can call her Florence the Fit. (I guess she could just as easily have been Harriet the Honda.) Florence is one of those old-lady names that hasn't yet gained retro-fashionable status, you know? There are lots of Emmas and Olivias these days, but few Florences -- or Ediths, Irenes and Ednas, for that matter.

I have been learning a lot this week about the area where I'm working and the towns I'm covering -- lots of background knowledge that won't appear immediately in print, but will definitely help me gain perspective on local issues.

I'm glad Hurricane Earl will apparently spare us any serious damage this weekend! Dave and I got a gift card to a restaurant in Asbury Park from one of our friends, and we were thinking about using it tomorrow or Saturday -- and then we thought, "Maybe driving down to the shore in a hurricane isn't a good idea!" But it looks like it won't be a big deal.

(Photo: Light fixture at Pam's house in Southampton, last weekend.)