Some time in 1972 or 73 I got together with Jan and Sandy to create a show for our mentor and teacher, George Buehr. He seemed so old to me and I wanted to give him this tribute while he was still alive. I’m laughing as I write this. He was 68 and I was 39. From my 82 year old vantage point I realize he was really quite young. While we were working on curating and putting the show together we also got together with other friends and made blank books. I had never done this before.After the show was over we had a party out at Ox-Bow in Michigan and I pasted photos into one of the blank books, my first real book creation.
It’s snowing. What I really want to do is hibernate in my bed, in a cave made of quilts and blankets, and remain there until the outdoor temperature is near fifty degrees and the sun is shining. I’ve been back here for one week and I’ve got cabin fever already.
So, here are the pictures from Israel; maybe they’ll make me feel better.
Yona and me, on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean, just after sunset. The picture was taken by Haim Lev, Yona’s friend, who comes to this spot every evening, to photograph the sunset.
Ceaserea, now a national park. When I was there in 1966 some of this was there, but much has been excavated since. You could just walk along the beach and pick up pottery shards or bits of stone.
Tel Aviv: There was only one tall building the last time I was in Israel. Amazing how much has changed in thirty years. Highways, now much better than ours, were all two-lane and people who passed on curves obviously had a strong belief in God.
Jerusalem. I spent most of the four days visiting friends so I didn’t see much of the city. I know that much has changed in the 30 years since I was there before.
I remained in Jerusalem on Sunday night so I could meet with another old friend, Janette, on Monday morning. The weekend had been rainy and cold but Monday was lovely again. We spent time walking and talking, catching up on the several years since we were together. I saw her new apartment in a senior living place, we went to lunch and finally to an informal Hebrew conversation class she holds for three American women. It did not improve my Hebrew.
Temporarily swearing off taxis I took a bus to the central bus station, another bus to Tel Aviv, then the train to Netanya, where Yona met me at the station. It felt like coming home.
This morning, Tuesday, we went to Haifa to see the exhibit I couldn’t find last week. The exhibit was in Carmel Center, halfway up the mountain. Not being sure of the way up Yona stopped a couple of people for directions. The second man said he was going there, so he got in the car and directed her. Very Israeli.
After another Israeli-Arab salad lunch we went on an unusual excursion. Yona is a volunteer driver helping sick Palestinians, particularly children, cross the border to reach Israeli hospitals for treatment. This service is provided at no cost. At the hospital in Haifa, we picked up a mother and baby and another mother with a very sick teenage boy who could barely get into the car, although he was the one who directed Yona about where to drive. The women said nothing. We took them to the checkpoint nearest their homes where we entered easily by giving the boy’s name and they were met by their families. Yona also gave a donated computer to the boy. You can read more about the volunteer group at http://www.roadtorecovery.org.il
Pampering myself, I took a taxi from Hofit to Jerusalem: expensive but easy and comfortable, and I had enough buses for awhile. I am staying, for 3 nights at the St. Andrews Scottish Church guest house–inexpensive but comfortable and nicely located. My knee is much better, the warmer weather having had a miraculous effect, and I was able to take a long walk through the German Colony with its many wonderful old buildings, shops and coffee houses. The weather began to change, with rain and cold predicted for the weekend. I bought a banana, a persimmon, an orange and some cashews for a light lunch and returned to the hotel.
All of my friends, except Yona, live in Jerusalem, so I am visiting one family each day. Shabat dinner (Friday night), was a boisterous family event with Elliot, Yaffa, two daughters, sils, three grandchildren and lots of good food. I can’t remember when I’ve been with so many small children. Elliot is Steve’s cousin. He and I did some business together back in New Jersey and I hadn’t seen him for several years. It was fun to see everyone but much of the conversation was in Hebrew and was impossible for me. I am not happy in an English-speaking crowd, let alone one where I know only about a fifth of the words and can’t always understand the accents. I suspect one of the sils doesn’t know much English and that was the problem. I spent the time watching the kids.
Saturday morning I met Shalmit and Noya, her nine month old daughter, at the Israel museum. Shalmit was in Pittsburgh studying Japanese art history when she became part of my family, so Noya is like my great grandchild. We didn’t look at much art but spent the day talking while I played with Noya. Great fun; she’s a lovely baby. And even though it has become quite cold here I was able to walk the whole day without much pain.
I watched the sun rise over Lake Michigan in Door County, then watched the setting sun make the buildings in downtown Chicago look like spires of light as I drove through the city to pick up Charna and Hannah and take them to dinner before we went to watch my grandson and his band. It was a long day and I’m still a little tired. I’m trying to rearrange my appointments and drive back to Pittsburgh tomorrow. I feel like I’ve been away long enough.
Tomorrow we go back to our real lives. No more walks along the beach; no more discussions about our art work; no more meals waiting for us and all of the wonderful camaraderie. My week in Door County is always one of the best of the year.
Today was beautiful after two days of rain, but I only got a couple of short walks along the beach. Wet sand penetrated my shoes so I took a few pictures of the geese and went back. I love walking along the beach hunting the treasure of dead fish and small pieces of driftwood. Years ago, playing on the beach at Lake Michigan was an entirely different experience, with clean sand and warm bodies on blankets soaking up the sun. Here, about 250 miles to the north and 65 years later on Lake Michigan, zebra mussel shells, seaweed, dead fish, driftwood and a couple of helium balloons cover the beach.
I haven’t done much artwork, but I can’t wait to get home and work on the dead fish.
Early for my meeting with Neill the next day, I went to look at places I recall living in. First on Harding Ave: I don’t remember the address, but it was a 2 story building with concrete stairs across the street from a large gravel covered field that fronted Volta School. I remember this vividly because of the many times I fell on my knees on the gravel and went around for weeks with infected, scabby knees. The field has been chopped in half and a building covers the half nearest my house, but I can’t find the house. I’ve tried looking on Google maps and came up with nothing. It’s 73 years;why do I think it would remain unchanged. I went on to the next place, a 2-story building with four apartments. The building had changed for the better, all cleaned and painted. I don’t know who lives in the neighborhood, but it looks great. The playground next to the house is fenced in and looks clean. Only one surprise, the synagogue my parents and grandmother attended, and where I went to Hebrew school and which subsequently became a Korean church, a huge beautiful building, has been torn down and is now a parking lot. The last place I lived, the house I loved, looks good, the neighborhood looks good, marred only by an enormous, unfinished, totally our of place castle that fronts on the highway and dwarfs all the nearby houses. Built on every square inch of land it has remained unfinished and up for sale for several years.
Lunch with Neill and a little more nostalgia then dinner with Betty. My days have been filled with lunches and dinners and breakfast with Eli and Hannah on Saturday. Sunday I walked and breakfasted on Marilyn and Arnie, then met artist friends at an exhibit. Monday morning we drove to Door County for our yearly art camp.
I never told you about my last few days in New York. Saturday evening we went to Lincoln Center to see HD Opera Outdoors. The plaza in front of the opera house was filled with chairs and a large screen set up on the building. The performance was La Traviata, the same one I had seen a few weeks ago. I enjoyed it just as much the second time.
On Sunday I went to Brooklyn with C. We started at the Brooklyn Museum then walked over what seemed like half of Brooklyn. She wore me out, but I love being with her. Monday I went to lunch with Sybille and then went to the Eldridge Street Synagogue Museum., where we were given a tour of this wonderfully restored old building.
Tuesday I got up very early, 4:30 am, and got on the 6:30 bus back to Pittsburgh. Everything was great until we were almost here and got into a terrible traffic tie-up. I think I won’t take the bus again: probably back to the train. I have two weeks here in the ‘burgh then I’m off to Chicago and Door County; art camp again.
It’s Saturday and I can hardly remember what happened last week. I know I should write every day. I met Julia on Wednesday and we went to the Museum of Art and Design, spending the entire afternoon looking at gorgeous glass and jewelry with a few beautiful wood objects. We parted for supper, Julia going to the theater and I went back to the Candle Cafe for another lovely dinner. But to tell you a secret, what really drew me back was the Eric Kayser Artisan Boulanger across the street that had walnut bread. I will go almost anywhere for walnut bread that doesn’t have raisins or cranberries.
Rain on Thursday did not keep me in the apartment. After I photographed the folk art building above, I went over to the West Side to the Museum of Biblical Art that had a wonderful exhibit derived from subjects in the Bible. Again I spent hours. There were a few books and many other wonderful drawings, paintings and paper cuts. I finished the day back at the apartment and did not go out for dinner.
Friday morning I cleaned the apartment: Renee was coming home and I had been my usual sloppy self. I removed all my junk except for a few discreet piles, cleaned the kitchen and bathroom and vacuumed up my crumbs, which were all over. Then I shopped and prepared to make us dinner. Anyone who loans me an apartment for 2 weeks in such a choice location deserves at least that much from me.
Today we went to the village to a street fair, and, marvelously, there were Mozzarepas. We were good and shared one, allowing us to have lunch later in the afternoon.
I met Rose for coffee first thing Monday morning. Not talked out after more than an hour we agreed to meet for dinner on Tuesday, and I walked over to the Met where I always have unfinished business. I’ve never been able to see the entire place.
I went directly to the roof garden frequently the site of interesting or fun exhibits. This one had an interesting concept, certainly not fun, but as often occurs with contemporary conceptual art, the execution fell far short of the idea. When I got tired of sitting there I went down to African Art, always worth seeing. The tiny (about 3 inches) ceramic chair above, stopped me, possibly adding more ideas for that next book. Then the shop called to me. Last week I saw a book I wanted but didn’t want to carry it. I resolved to buy it, then found another book I wanted. I solved my problem by shipping both of them.
Rose called and asked me to come to her apartment about 5 o’clock to meet two interesting neighbors. Sandra is a self-taught specialist on Inuit art, who comes from Chicago. We had lots to talk about and hope to see each other again. Larraine was another interested elder. I think we make Rose, who is comparatively young, feel better about aging.
Tuesday morning I went for a haircut, then went to the West Side to meet Phyllis, with whom I made very exact meeting plans. I arrived early and stopped at the Folk Art Museum, which had a show of the work of Bill Traylor that added another bit to my book problem. Once you begin really thinking about something everything seems to add to it.
Our eventual destination was a movie, but first Phyllis and I went to lunch at Bar Boulud, an expensive, happening restaurant, not my usual kind of place. I managed to find a salad I could eat–beautiful and tasty.
Then we went to see Blue Jasmine, the new Woody Allen film. I think it was very well done, but I hated Jasmine so much I would have walked out after the first ten minutes if I had been alone.
Dinner was with Rose at the vegan Candle Cafe. It was great, also beautiful and tasty. And we still haven’t finished talking.