Posts with the category ‘Music, Food, Art and Culture’


Time to Forgive, Congratulations to the Chicago Cubs

November 3, 2016

To understand why I’ve rooted against Chicago’s Cubs for the past three decades, you have to know that once upon a time, the Cubs had me arrested.  And not just me, but Richard Isaac (aka Ike) my dear friend and camera man at WGN-TV. I worked as a city hall reporter in Chicago from 1983 to 1988 during the wild days when Harold Washington was the city’s first black mayor. Baseball? Nope, it was the city council that played hardball back then. Anyway, one day when the Cubs were not enjoying a particularly long run of losses, my bosses at Channel 9 sent Ike and me to… Read More…


Iceland Bared, Three Ways to See What It’s Made Of

October 22, 2016

“If you get lost in the forest in Iceland, just stand up,” or so the joke goes. Iceland has many natural wonders, but forests are not among them. You are much more likely to get lost among the volcanic rocks which pile atop each other over vast distances. Covered by snow in winter, lichen in fall and awash in purple Lupina in the summer, the bones of the face of Iceland have a seasonal sameness. I’ve visited Iceland five times in as many years, including a visit in July for this story for The New York Times. But after a conference here this week, I took two days and… Read More…


Prostitute and Papacy Entwined in Lake Constance History

July 6, 2016

She is thirty feet high and weighs 36 thousand pounds and every inch of her voluptuous and barely-concealed anatomy is alluring – except perhaps for the two naked and wizened old men who sit in the palms of each of her upraised hands, one a pope the other an emperor. The statute of the courtesan Imperia by German artist Peter Lenk is not just the most “photographed attraction” in the lakeside resort town of Constance (Konstanz in German) in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, it is the only public sculpture to so conspicuously memorialize a prostitute. Revolving at a rate of once every three minutes to display… Read More…


The Magical Effect of Music and Mozart in Salzburg

July 1, 2016

Tom Hook, the New Orleans jazz pianist, sitting next to me at the Mozart dinner concert my last night in Salzburg, Austria, explained his presence at the event with a smile and probably some understatement, “I am familiar with Mozart’s music.” Sure, there’s a gulf as wide as the Atlantic Ocean between American jazz and the music for which the 18th century composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is so famous, still, I have little doubt my dinner companion knew far more than I about Mozart when he arrived in Austria. In a room illuminated by candlelight, two singers, garbed in the costumes of the day sang pieces… Read More…


Nagasaki Survivor and US President On Same Page for Peace

May 30, 2016

Nagasaki survivor Takeo Aizawa, a retired school teacher now living in Tokyo, did not watch President Obama’s speech at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial live, as many other Japanese did. At 77, Aizawa keeps the schedule of a much younger man. He was handling other events in his life, his new grandbaby for one, and planned reunion of old classmates. But he remembers better than most, the events that brought Obama to Japan a few days ago, because Takeo Aizawa lived through them. Aizawa was a six-year-old student attending class when the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, 30 kilometers from where he sat.  “I was not affected… Read More…


A Day at the Beach, a Pinch at Dinner on Hong Kong’s Lamma Island

May 29, 2016

On a steamy but sunny Sunday in Hong Kong, I packed a swimsuit, an umbrella (to ward off rain) and a hotel hand towel, in the thoughtfully-provided nylon carry bag left in my room at the East Hotel and headed for the ferry to spend a day on Lamma Island. This is not just a place to go swimming, it is a hilly walk through fecund forests where every break in the trees yields another spectacular view of small, colorful structures tumbling down the hills and flag-bearing fishing boats bobbing on the water. Just twenty minutes across the water from super-bustling Hong Kong, it is the antithesis of Asia urban, a… Read More…


Outta My Comfort Zone and Into the Ice in Finland

January 21, 2016

In Miami, where I grew up, swimming in the ocean was akin to stepping into the tub; no discernable difference in temperature between the water and the air and that’s just how I like it. So no one was more surprised then I to be bounding across the snow in Helsinki wearing nothing more than a swimsuit and a towel and headed to a hole in the ice on the Gulf of Finland. And yes, I was planning to swim. To understand what lunacy prompted me do do such a thing, I need to wind back the story a few hours. The plan was to take a hike, what tour… Read More…


Alabama Shore Shows Diversity of U.S. Culture

November 13, 2015

On a recent trip to France, I had breakfast with Sofia Vandaele, General Manager of the newly remodeled and absolutely gorgeous Hilton Paris Opera. Sofia is Belgian and fluent in seven languages. It never ceases to amaze Americans – many of whom know only English – just how many different tongues the people in other countries speak. Sofia is very smart, not to mention charming which explains why she is one of the world’s youngest hotel managers. Big hat tip to a woman like that and who can also carry on a conversation in seven languages. Still, anyone who has visited Europe knows many countries are… Read More…


Weekend in the Palmyra Khaled al-Asaad Died to Protect

August 20, 2015

I hesitate to write this because Middle East politics is an unfathomable puzzle to me. I understand only the barest details of what is happening in Iraq and Syria. But hearing the news of the death of Khaled al-Asaad, the 83 year old archeologist who was guardian and custodian of the historic sites in Palmyra (Tadmor) in Syria’s northwest breaks my heart. In 2006, while doing a month-long Arabic immersion course in Damascus, I hopped a bus and spent a weekend there.  As luck would have it, it was the culmination of the Zenobia Festival with camel races by day and music and dancing by night. Tadmor… Read More…


Kyoto’s Geisha Real or Imagined Still Captivating

May 7, 2015

One would think that Kyoto, Japan was in the middle of a geisha boom, the way the streets are filled with kimono-wearing women, shuffling down the sidewalks in their six-inch high wooden geta and split toe socks. The jangly metal fan ornaments and flower blossoms in their hair called kanzashi bob with each step they take.  But they are not real. Okay, the women are real but they are not geisha, geiko or even maiko, (what they call women training to be geisha). These are tourists taking part in the booming business of dressing up and touring the town, creating excitement every where they go, not the… Read More…


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