Sunday, December 04, 2016

Dennis Dodge House

The Dennis Dodge House at 10 County Street, Ipswich, Massachusetts

Greater Boston is the place we lived the longest, 1973-76, 1980-2002. That’s 25 years in the Boston area. Add a couple of years in southern Connecticut and two more in northern New Hampshire and we flirted with 30 years in New England. That lengthy period infused us with great love for Yankee values and the rich history of the place. The first house that we owned was The Dennis-Dodge House on County Road in Ipswich, Massachusetts, locals say “Mass.” Built in 1740 the then brown gambrel saltbox sat on the corner a block from the Ipswich River. 

We frolicked at Crane Beach, one of the country’s finest, from which we could see Plum Island and Newburyport in the distance. A handful of miles east in Essex we ate steamers, lobster and fried Little Neck Clams at Woodman’s. The legendary clam shack claims to have invented the fried clam. Ipswich is where we started skiing. Nearly every winter weekend we’d drive to Gunstock above Lake Winnipesauke in southern New Hampshire. We’d ski all day before heading home by way of The Grog in Newburyport for a bowl of chowder. Yet again food looms large. Why are you not surprised?

Our son was baptized by rector Edward French of Ascension Memorial Church just down the street. He’d been John Updike’s Harvard roommate. French’s wife was a fiery redhead and the Ballantine beer heiress. The reverend drove a white 1963 Mercedes 280 SE convertible. To this day my favorite car. Ever.

The Jacobean stairway with oversized King George boards to the left. The wide boards were quite illegal as they were to be used exclusively for his majesty's ships of war.

I drove at least 30 miles in each direction to my office in Burlington and never once regretted the time or distance. It was pure joy to arrive at our clapboard classic with its seven working fireplaces which included a walk-in hearth replete with a beehive oven. The best Thanksgivings and Christmases ever were celebrated in the Dennis-Dodge House. There’s Christmas and there’s a New England Christmas. Makes me misty to remember.

Since I have no photographs of my own to illustrate this look back I’ve have had to rely on small files from the public domain. 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Naked Fruit

Standing in the 94-degree heat at Tablas Creek Winery in Paso Robles and a trifling 9009 kilometers from Domaine du Beaucastel in Chateauneuf du Pape I am about to reap the wonders of the Grenache grape. Grenache is the dominant grape in the powerful wines of the southern Rhone valley of France, the region that we think of as Provence and more specifically the Vaucluse and the Luberon. When blended with the Syrah and Mourvedre the lofty Chateauneuf du Pape and its less known neighbor Gigondas are wines that are inky, smoky, earthy and mouth-filling treasures, the epitome of terroir driven wines. 20 years ago you could buy a Gigondas in the states for $10 and now they fetch $40. And that $10 bottle was just $4.00 at the vineyard in the lovely village of Gigondas in the mid-nineties and a garden variety Cote du Rhone was a paltry $2.50. My how time flies.

In Central California the sugar laden Grenache produces wines that are more fruit forward than their French counterparts and, since I’ve never met a fruit bomb I didn’t love, I favor the New World iteration.

We arrived at Tablas Creek smack in the middle of harvest known as “vendage” in France and while we didn't observe the picking we invited ourselves to take a closer look at the pressing of the Grenache grape, a look that included a mouthful of the sweet berries right off the vine. A well-tuned taster could probably predict the success of the vintage based on the sweetness and flavor of the naked fruit itself. And according to my novice taste buds the Tablas Creek’s 2016 Grenache and blends thereof will be killer.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Distant Cousins

The portal of the 1797 Mission San Miguel Archangel, the 16th of  Padre Junipero Serra's 21 California Missions.

Famed San Francisco de Asis in Ranchos de Taos, NM built between 1772 and 1816. 

Like the Spanish Colonial churches of New Mexico, the Spanish missions of California intrigue me. Though they were built at the same time, the late 18th century to the early 19th, they are very different. Why should two Catholic churches built at virtually the same time be so dissimilar?

My first guess is that it’s because of native American or Pueblo design influences in New Mexico and Moorish ones in California. What's your take on this riddle?

The pitched tile roof of San Miguel.

The rear buttress of San Francisco or Ranchos Church.

Comparing San Miguel Archangel in San Miguel, California nine miles north of Paso Robles to San Francisco de Asis in Ranchos de Taos, NM the differences are stark. In San Miguel there’s a sprawling “mission style” layout and long portal or portico. It feels more evolved and finer. Not finer in the qualitative sense but finer as in finished. San Francisco is more muscular, organic and contained.

The materials used were the same, adobe and timber, but in California curved earthen adobe roof tiles called tejas were employed and the architectural lines are more angular and the stucco colors lighter compared to the mud tones of New Mexican iglesias.

Massive buttresses are a feature of colonial churches in New Mexico whereas slightly pitched tiled roofs typify the "Mission Style" in California.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

A subject and a camera

David Marks

There’s a portrait right in front of us almost all of the time. It’s a wonder that we don’t take more of them. All you need is to see the subject and to have a camera.

Last weekend in Santa Fe for an art opening I attended the extraordinary History in a Moment show at the Monroe Gallery on Don Gaspar Street. The exhibition of iconic photographs from the Great Depression of the 1930s, WWll, Viet Nam and the Iraq War should not be missed. Carl Mydans, George Silk, Margaret Bourke-White, Alfred Eisenstaedt are among the photographers included. Many images in the show are part of Time Magazine: 100 Photographs: The Most Influential Photographs of All Time that appeared in my in-box yesterday.

Just across the street is the David Marks Gallery. It wasn’t on my radar at that particular moment but it featured black and white photography so I couldn’t very well not go. Turns out David is a fine black and white shooter and quite the raconteur. I commented that he was displaying landscapes and asked if it was because “that’s what sells.” He allowed that my hypothesis was valid but then he walked me to a bin of portraits. All excellent. He said that William Eppridge, a Life Magazine photographer and one of those featured in the History in a Moment show across the street, had visited his gallery a few years back and that, during that visit, he had photographed him. When Eppridge died in 2013 David’s image of him was the one included in news coverage of his passing.

As I prepared to leave I asked David where he photographed Eppridge. He said “In the doorway.” The picture up top was taken in that exact place.

Sunday, November 06, 2016


I’ve reported from Highway 104 in the past. It’s the ribbon of roadway that meanders from Tucumcari to Las Vegas that we traverse when returning from the Panhandle Plains Museum in Canyon, Texas. It’s a barely inhabited trove of desert wonders of which I never tire.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

All fall down

Spring of leaves and fall of leaves were the medieval precursors to our terms spring and fall and say exactly what they mean. To whit, the leaves spring forth in April and fall to the ground sometime in October. 

Today we dwell on the lowly fallen leaf and more specifically on the detritus of another golden season in Boston. In a parking lot across from my beloved Museum of Fine Art the gusty winds have swept the fallen leaves into tidy piles that just as surely as a janitor with a broom. A catfish or a dragon per chance?

Less aesthetic but as illustrative of the season are leaves and a beer cup swimming in a puddle from Saturday's rain.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Not New Mexico

I’m riding this fog theme for all it’s worth. Here’s a tight shot with a filigree of branches and leaves that has an abstract quality to it followed by a wide shot of the beach that shows just how foggy it was in Cayucos one fine September morning. This is about as un-New Mexico as it gets. Not to brag but we're all about bluebird skies and vistas to forever.