Size Matters?

No doubt you’ve been following our hard-to-avoid political theatrics on display at state primaries and caucuses. You’ve listened to campaign trail rants and debate shouting matches. And on the eve of tomorrow’s primary in Florida, you’ve witnessed violence and dust-ups. You’ve noticed a lot of talk – yelling – about bigness, from the gaping mouth of Donald Trump, the candidate with big bucks, super-size ego, tall order insults and alleged anatomical largesse.

Nothing small about the man, except his notion of taste. I was reminded of this character flaw, just one of many, right, when hearing about “The Polish Brigade.” That’s the gang of undocumented workers (from Poland) corralled by the Trump people in 1980 to demolish the old Bonwit Teller building, below, on Fifth Ave. to make way for the architectural clunker known as Trump Tower.

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Just compare the two. Erected in 1929, the BT building was first known as the Stewart & Company store. Designed by the architects Whitney Warren and Charles Wetmore, traditional Beaux-Arts creators of mansions and clubs, it had an entranceway that was a “stupendously luxurious mix of limestone, bronze, platinum and hammered aluminum,” according to The New York Times. It was called “a sparkling jewel in keeping with the character of the store,” noted American Architect magazine at the time. “At the very top of the facade were limestone relief panels of two early naked (and therefore controversial) women brandishing large scarves, as if dancing,” The Times tells us. Check them out up close, above, during Trump’s demolition derby.

According to the paper, Trump had promised the limestone reliefs of the dancing women to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which wanted them for its sculpture collection. But they never made the trip up Fifth Ave. The workmen jackhammered them to bits. What caring follow through by the business man!

Now take a gander at the dark, soulless Trump Tower. What can you say about it?  That it’s ugly? Check. That it lacks any notable architectural detail or historical import? Double check.

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This whole out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new led me just  a skip up Fifth Ave. where sits another venerable retailer, Bergdorf Goodman which has been at that location since 1928. Now the building is one of the backlogged properties The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission is deciding the fate of. To grant landmark status to or not.

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Talk about historical significance. First off, think what originally stood there: the 1883 Cornelius Vanderbilt II mansion, the modest dwelling below, designed by George B Post and Richard Morris Hunt. Then realize had the city’s landmarks law been passed not a century ago, but just a few decades earlier, the Vanderbilt mansion would almost certainly be with us today.

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Long may BG stand and just a few reasons why it should:

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*Home to those classic lavender boxes with the fashionable ladies striding across the covers which I remember from my grandmother’s closet

*Launching pad for the designer Halston, first known for his millenary. Here, Halston adjusts one of his chapeaus.

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*Set for Barbra Streisand’s 1965 show on CBS, “My Name is Barbra.”Below, Ms. B struts in GB’s fur department. Loved it!!

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BG’s too pricey for me these days, but boy is it fun to window shop and browse its storied aisles.

Extremely Loud: All the Noise that’s fit to Tweet

Edvard Munch's "The Scream," pastel, 1895

Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” pastel, 1895

The Boston manhunt for the two suspected bombers at that city’s marathon last week was Twitter’s blazing moment in the sun with legions of Twitter folk  boasting how much faster they were than the “old media.” Faster, but better?

That’s the question  James Gleick puts out there both in his piece in New York magazine’s cover story, “The 21st Century Converges on Boston,” and in what he tells Maureen Dowd in her column in today’s New York Times, “Lost in Space.” Gleick is a former editor and reporter for The Times and an author of several science and technology books including “The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood.”

“The Internet is messy, pointillist, noisy, often wrong,” he tells Dowd, adding, “There’s no perfect trust in cyberspace. There are not only millions of voices, but millions of masks. You don’t know who’s who.” Or who’s delivering the truth or pushing fiction and passing it along as fact.

It’s heartening to read that Gleick still calls himself “an old-media guy, because the information that matters sometimes comes the next day or the next month, when there is time to digest and interpret.”

Many are voicing concerns about the increasing complex challenge of  ferreting out accurate information on the

The Vineyard Haven Public Library, a stone's throw from our house. Lucky me.

The Vineyard Haven Public Library, a stone’s throw from our house. Lucky me.

Internet. Yesterday, I heard Maureen Sullivan, President of the American Library Association,  speak about the future of libraries.

Previously, Sullivan has noted “the difficulty those we serve have in achieving information and media literacy” in our ever-evolving “socially networked environment.” She echoed the same concern about “discerning fact from conjecture”  yesterday.

Today’s libraries are more than just a place to check out books, they provide research tools and agenda-free guidance in Internet searching, aiding  seniors and students alike with librarian expertise to set the facts straight.

Well Seasoned…

Here’s some food for thought as gleaned from a recent New York magazine interview with the “ethical-eating guru,” Micheal Pollan. Screen shot 2013-04-17 at 9.35.18 AMBut Pollan tells Adam Platt, the writer, he is distainful of highfalutin labels and is more comfortable, not surpisingly for someone who has always praised food at its simple best, with the more down to earth title of “Nature Geek. That’s really how I see myself – a nature writer who writes about this particular nature that we don’t think of as nature…Food is ecological as well as sociological…The way we eat is connected to the environment and to the health of the land.”

Other tidbits from the article follow. Pollan’s newest book, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation,  will be published next week. In it, Pollan recounts how he learned from the experts in mastering cooking with the four classical elements: fire, water, air and earth.

Chipotle is a favorite fast-food restaurant: “It’s actually fresh food. Their meat is well sourced, most of it…although the portions are huge.”

What to think about when you think about snacking: “One rule somebody gave me is, if you’re not hungry enough to eat an apple, you’re not really hungry.” If snack you must, try a protein-rich option: “Almonds and walnuts and other nuts have a lot of fat in them and they hold you for a very long time. Also, their fat is such that a lot of the fat is never digested in the upper-GI tract. You can’t break it down, so a lot of it simply passes through you.”

“I can’t do no bread. I love bread.” Yes!

About the new restaurant culture: “It’s gotten really decadent and way too precious. If I have to have another fourteen-course meal where I have to listen to a waiter give me a recipe before every course and interrupt my conversation with the friend I’m with or with my wife — I’m just so tired of that…”I really like restaurants that leave you alone. What satisfies me is simple food sreally well prepared – and prepared with conviction…I don’t go anywhere where I have to stand in line. I just cannot see the point of standing in line.” Totally.

And let’s hear it for Adam. When speaking to Pollan about the problem of snacking, he says: “I’ll just go over to the icebox, and I’ll just stand there looking, with my mouth agape.” Icebox?! Hey, that’s one of my words. How old is this guy?? However, I have retired “ice chest” and “Victrola” from my vocabulary.

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High Times in the Lowcountry

Gracious Living Charleston Style...Take that Brooklyn!

Gracious Living Charleston Style…Take that Brooklyn!

Many moons ago, Michael, a stalwart member of a grand NYC book group I visit when I can announced he and his sisters, Barbara and Cathy, had bought a home in Pawleys Island, South Carolina. The girls call it home; Michael visits from New York three to four times a year. “Why don’t you come on down in the spring,” he offered. And, Reader, we did one fine April weekend.

We came from points south – Jack, Phoebe and me driving from FL – and winging in from the north on the very spartan Spirit Airlines. While the Hampton Inn was our home, Jack and Phoebe were sequestered in a very grim, pet-friendly Motel 6. Jack was skeptical. It’s kind of out of the way (on our dreary route home to the Vineyard), he groused. It’s just a little detour, I countered. We arrived, bucking spring breakers, 13 hours later.

Drive, she said...but 13 hours? Jack takes a break from the road trip that wouldn't end

Drive, she said…but 13 hours? Jack takes a break from the road trip that wouldn’t end

The bucolic pond at the Hampton Inn where Michael, our chivalrous leader, defends his flock against an ominous gate-crasher, cruising in upper right.

The bucolic pond at the Hampton Inn where Michael, our chivalrous leader, defends his flock against an ominous gate-crasher, cruising in upper right.

It had poured rain days before the group’s arrival, but the skies cleared and remained postcard perfect for the remainder of our visit. Saturday we froliced on the beach.

Beach Bunnies ready for their close-ups

Beach Bunnies ready for their close-ups

Charleston, which borders the area known as South Carolina’s Lowcountry, is about an hour’s drive south of Pawleys Island and once there you’ll see pineapple motifs galore. They represent hospitality. But they must have sent a few north cause Michael and his sisters treated us like royalty. Check out the culinary display for our book discussion dinner. To Kill a Mockingbird  was on our literary menu and invoked another meaningful chat. What can you say about a novel that perfectly balances a coming-of-age story with that of a memoir; that deposits you smack in the middle of the racially-charged deep South of the 1930s and tackles gender issues. Plenty.

"Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."

“Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

A Catered Affair for the Book Discussion Chowdown; David reviews his edition of "To Kill A Mockingbird," published in May 2010 to commemorate the book's 50th anniversary. The back of the dust jacket of the original has a picture of Harper Lee taken by her good pal Truman Capote. In 1960, it cost $3.95.

A Catered Affair for the Book Discussion Chowdown; David reviews his edition of “To Kill A Mockingbird,” published in May 2010 to commemorate the book’s 50th anniversary. The back of the dust jacket of the original has a picture of Harper Lee taken by her good pal Truman Capote. In 1960, it cost $3.95.

To fortify us for our Charleston House and Garden tour Sunday, we had yet another excellent meal chez Michael, Barbara & Cathy. We also surprised Michael with a birthday cake and natal day offerings. If anybody ever deserved being feted!!

Michael, The Birthday Boy, eyes his cake as Lauren and David II look on. Crusader Rabbit or Man of Steel. We love them both.

Michael, The Birthday Boy, eyes his cake as Lauren and David II look on. Crusader Rabbit or Man of Steel. We love them both.

Post bunch, the gang caravaned into Charleston. Our starting point was the headquarters of Historic Charleston Foundation.

Donna and Andrew check out our East Battery Tour brochure in the  courtyard of The Shops of Historic Charleston Foundation

Donna and Andrew check out our East Battery Tour brochure in the courtyard of The Shops of Historic Charleston Foundation

We hoofed it around our East Battery hood all afternoon. At our destinations (we visited 7 houses!), we were often  greeted by natty-looking gents in khakis, blue blazers and boaters. A “uniform,” we were told, that can get you into any Charleston cocktail gathering. The city was jammed.

At day's end in front of the Pineapple Fountain in Charleston's Waterfront Park---Take the picture already!!

At day’s end in front of the Pineapple Fountain in Charleston’s Waterfront Park—Take the picture already!!

Our final dinner was at one of Charleston’s fine dinning eateries, 82 Queen, where Michael had, of course, secured a room of our own.

Our Final Dinner at 82 Queen

Our Final Dinner at 82 Queen

But wait there’s still more…We sped back to Pawleys Island for whatelse? To view the first episode of season six of Mad Men. 

"There is no greater sorrow than to recall happiness in times of misery." -- Dante's "The Inferno"

“There is no greater sorrow than to recall happiness in times of misery.” — Dante’s “The Inferno”

You all come back and see us real soon!

You all come back and see us real soon!

What party? Motel 6 sucks

What party? Motel 6 sucks

Gatsby’s Cover Appeal

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Check out the last page of today’s New York Times Style Magazine. There you will find a sampling of the late Matthew J. Bruccoli’s collection of  covers of The Great Gatsby – foreign and domestic editions. It includes Francis Coradal-Cugat’s original cover art (right). We are told this collection is priceless. But Bruccoli, the scholar and F. Scott Fitzgerald biographer, said that he didn’t collect these iconic images to make a killing: “You don’t buy books as an investment. You buy them because it gives you pleasure to read them, to touch them…to see them on shelves.” Oh, how an e-book reader falls short! Baz Luhrmann’s very jazzy version of “The Great Gatsby” comes to the screen May 10.