Random Places I Have Been in 2017

Well, I guess we were just in a New York State of Mind in 2017.

Trips to the Empire State included:

  • An extended “writer’s  retreat” weekend in Cooperstown in April.  It was my wife’s first time in one of my favorite places on earth.  It was also our first time doing Air B&B.  Despite coming home with a nail in my tire…it was a truly relaxing, lovely trip (and, yes, we both got some much-needed writing done).
  • A weekend getaway to NYC in June to hit up some old haunts (with a jaunt out to Brooklyn and the Brooklyn Museum).
  • A family vacation in August renting a house on Lake Seneca (first time in the Finger Lakes region) from which we watched the solar eclipse. The vacation also included day-tripping to Watkins Glen and the Canadian side of Niagara Falls (a long overdue first time there!)  The Niagara experience inspired a short-story I’m currently polishing up.

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My Favorite Eats in My Favorite Haunts

I took a half-hearted stab at a local dining guide years ago, and at some point many of the restaurants listed below received a shout out in one way or another from The Spin or on my Twitter…but I decided it would be fun to traverse the eastern part of North America and crown a best restaurant in each favorite stomping ground.  Our journey begins way down yonder in my former homeland of Nor’ Cackalacky.  We’ll revisit some of my local favorites in Philly and the Jersey Burbs.  We’ll travel far north through New York (and slighty west) all the way up into the land of expense accounts and Canucks.  Prepare your taste buds, your credit cards, your hybrid vehicles (only if you have a designated driver) and/or your frequent flier miles….here is The Spin on My Favorite Eats in My Favorite Haunts.

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Raleigh, North CarolinaBabylon (309 N. Dawson St.) – I have no idea why a restaurant serving Moroccan food is called Babylon.  Would Casablanca have been somehow un-PC or Marrakesh too obvious?  But weird geographical naming faux-pas aside, this uber-trendy mecca of Raleigh’s liberal elite located fashionably downtown serves up organic, locally raised Moroccan and Middle Eastern-inspired cuisine that rivals any of your bigger city Northeast rivals.  The ambiance is casual urban chic, the service impeccable, and the food fresh, hip and flavorful.  Really, Raleigh, whodathunk?  You go, with your emerging multicultural self!

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Philadelphia, PennsylvaniaAmada (217 Chestnut Street) – Old City. Chef Jose Garcas. Spanish Tapas.  Drinks named after Almodovar films. And a dish so epically simple and flavorful called Madre y Hijo (which consists of a fried egg atop a perfect slice of chicken breast atop a bed of roasted fingerling potatoes and all drizzled in truffle oil) that I would request if I were to ever find myself on death row waiting for a last meal.  This is a Philly Restaurant Week staple and one of the most popular (and hard to get into) restaurants in the city even after all of these years.  What more is there to say? (Reservations required!) Continue reading

Of Baseball, Beer, Bats and Caves

Well, I just got back from another successful excursion to Upstate New York for some much-needed rest & relaxation, and I even got some writing done while up there, too.  The weather was perfect – sunny with patchy clouds and blue skies, a cool breeze and mid-60 degree temperatures – and the water was high and gently rushing down the mountains from the recent thaw.  The roads and hills were once again open for the taking.

Some highlights from this time around included: Continue reading

Dead by Daylight

It’s summertime!  And what comes to mind more than…yup, uh-huh…graveyards!

It might be the summer doldrums for refined film buffs — and if you consider yourself party to such self-inflicted snobbery, then pray your city has been one of the selected cities for Winter’s Bone’s limited release – it’s killer good and the perfect antithesis to summer movie hell.  Meanwhile every girl and woman you know is lining up for tonight’s midnight showing and about to go crazy over the latest in the Twilight Saga…dun dun dun…Eclipse!  Can you hear Bonnie Tyler now?  Turn around…

So, in the most tenuous of ties to the Total Eclipse of the Box Office, I have decided to post a hodge-podge collection of my daylight graveyard photography.  Some of these photos have been posted before in travel logs and some have never before seen the light of day.  The cemeteries visited span the states of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New York. 

Ga’head, ladies, use your imagination and picture your favorite vampire or werewolf hunk amidst the trees and the stones.  Or better yet…don’t.  Continue reading

America by Walker Evans

Walker Evans (1903-1975) was undoubtedly one of America’s greatest photographers.  His black-and-white images stand as time capsules of an America now gone but still familiar.  Evans is best known for his iconic images of sharecroppers hit hard by The Great Depression as part of his work for the Farm Security Administration.  During my recent visit to Cooperstown, NY and the Fenimore Art Museum, I was able to see their amazing collection of Walker Evans’ photographs.  I was struck most not by his most famous images from the Dust Bowl and America’s Heartland, but by his images of America’s East Coast during the same time period.  His photographs of people and places spanning the hardened core of America’s original thirteen states from New York City to Atlanta captured an America that was shell-shocked but resilient, an over-developed and industrialized stretch of the Eastern Seaboard that was crumbling and decaying but populated by survivors — an America that would eventually pull through the Great Depression and produce the Greatest Generation defined by their heroic actions in World War Two.

Here are some of my favorite images from Walker Evans: Continue reading

Autumn in Cooperstown

As not only the birthplace of baseball but also the birthplace of the American novel, Cooperstown, New York (named for the family that spawned America’s first great novelist, James Fenimore Cooper) is an endless source of inspiration.  After last year’s visit in early Spring, I decided I wanted to make a yearly pilgrimage to the place of Glimmerglass and Doubleday, leaves and lakes, ballplayers and writers, Coopers and Mohicans.  Mid-Autumn is an intoxicating sight to behold in Cooperstown and around Lake Otsego.  It’s the time of year when the “off season” is just beginning, part-time locals are enjoying a less crowded hamlet before retiring to warmer climates, year-round natives are still enjoying the nicer weather, the last shot of selective tourists leisurely ascends into town for fall foliage or in honor of the baseball playoff season, the few remaining sailboats glide over Glimmerglass, and the wildlife still roams freely but sleepily as they settle in for their upcoming long winter’s nap.  Hibernation, ice and loneliness await as the leaves slowly dance down from the treetops and cover the sidewalks as a colorful precursor to the white snow that will blanket the area all too soon.

Naturally, one can’t help but snap as many pictures as possible.  Continue reading

Cooperstown Travel Log

In honor of the opening week of baseball season, I took a road trip with my brother and a friend up to Cooperstown, NY to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame.  It was the first time I had been back since I was a child.  Though cold (and rainy on the last day), it was the perfect time of year to go to avoid the crowds that typically swamp the small village nestled below the mountains beside Lake Otsego during the summer months.  The quaint town was practically all ours for the taking (spare for some bus tours and kids at the Hall of Fame), and it was great to be able to mingle with the genuinely friendly and sometimes eccentric locals (especially on the first night at the only two bars in town open past midnight).

Below are some of the images and landscapes I was able to capture during my brief stay.  Continue reading