Archive for October, 2010

Small town north of Rome is worlds away

October 27, 2010
 This was first published Feb. 21, 2010, in my Boston Globe column “Where they Went.” Hmmm, I wonder if they returned this year?

Karen Lynch and her sons Owen (left) and Henry on the road to Civita di Bagnoregio

WHO: Karen, 46, and Fred Lynch, 48, and their sons Henry, 14, and Owen, 12, of Winchester, Mass.

WHERE: Viterbo, Italy.

WHEN: Month of July.

WHY: For Fred Lynch, a professor of illustration at Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, Mass., to teach in the school’s study-abroad program.

THAT ‘IN’ FEELING: Last summer was the third the family has spent July in Viterbo, a small city about 80 miles north of Rome, and they hope to keep returning. “The first two times we were in an apartment just outside the city, but this time we were inside the walls,’’ Karen Lynch said of the historic center, which is surrounded by medieval walls. “It was louder, but very fun.’’

Karen and Fred Lynch in Sorano, Italy

IT’S UNDERSTANDABLE: “It’s a big adventure for all of us,’’ she said. Everyone in the family speaks some Italian. “Henry is like a dictionary. He’s not that talkative. I am, but my vocabulary isn’t great, so with the two of us together, we do pretty well. Owen loves to go to classes with Fred, so usually Henry and I go off exploring during the day.’’

TOOK ITS TOLL: “I always rent a car,’’ said Lynch, mentioning she had recently received a $50 ticket through the rental company, several months after the trip. “I think it was when the toll booth ate my card to pay. The gates went down in the front and back of the car. I pushed a button and someone spoke back to me, but I don’t know what they said.’’ They let her go, but apparently not without consequences.

Henry and Owen at the Door of Hell in the Park of the Monsters in Bomarzo

FAMILY FEAST: Each summer they accept an invitation to visit several generations of a local family at their summer house in Tarquinia, a coastal town to the west. “We get there at noon and first spend time at the beach. It’s hotel after hotel, with a sea of umbrellas. Then it’s time to eat: salad, pasta, pork, chicken, vegetables, then fruit. All with wine, of course. We eat for like five hours, a little at a time.’’ In Italy, Lynch continues her usual exercise regime. “I look terribly American when I’m running because no one there runs.’’

LAUNDRY LESSONS: Mastering the Italian washing machine has been challenging. “It’s so complicated that you’re glad there’s no dryer. Once the cycle went for 17 hours. The one we had this last time took maybe two or three hours.’’

Owen (left), Fred, Karen and Henry at a Viterbo restaurant on Owen's 12th birthday

BROUGHT TO HEEL: The evening stroll, or “passeggiata,’’ is her favorite part of the day. “Everyone goes out for a walk, to look in shop windows, have an ice cream. If you’re a woman, you wear your most uncomfortable shoes. I do wear heels, but I can only manage the chunky ones on the cobblestone. All the Italian women are in high-heel strappy sandals. How do they do it?’’


We toyed with tradition, but fair still delivers

October 20, 2010

A Ferris wheel is still without seats a few hours after opening of the state fair

We tried a different tactic this year at the NC State Fair. After years of shuffling through the crowds, last week we arrived two hours after the fair opened its fall run. It was so squeaky clean you could smell detergent more than you could fried, greasy things. This was a little disconcerting. It was so uncrowded you could walk anywhere without bumping into anyone. This was a little depressing. The food lines were so short, you didn’t have time to work up an appetite. This was a little deflating. So, while we won’t go on a Saturday night, ever, we’ll likely skip opening day next year.

The Krispy Kreme burger has a star role

Still, we enjoyed ourselves. We saw the new Krispy Kreme burgers, got our free satchels at the Time Warner tent (although do I have any fondness for TW? No!), scarfed down some kettle corn, bought some fried frito pie thing that wasn’t very good, and finally found Joe’s Diner’s one-pound hotdog, which we wanted to meet, not eat. Wessel did enjoy the more reasonable quarter-pound version. We digested our intake while wandering through the Village of Yesteryear, the Got to be NC exhibit, the photos and art and of course the midways.

Youngsters with their lambs look hopeful while a judge inspects the animals

The two places that were crowded and lively — the State Fair Ark at the Exposition Center and the Livestock and Poultry in the Jim Graham Building — were holding several youth competitions. I chatted with a mom from Elizabeth City whose 13-year-old daughter was showing her lamb in one event and then quickly scurrying over to another building to show her goat. It was fascinating to watch the judges check the animals’ posture and muscle tone and the kids’ showmanship and control. How proud those children and their parents must be to show at the state fair! And if they win, well, all the better. Just seeing adolescents and teens being a part of something that’s not about TV, texting, shopping, and the kids themselves, well, that warmed my heart.

North Carolina apples as far as the eye can see

We also enjoyed the big and not-so-big veggies, the lovely array of apples, mostly from western NC, and the hay competition. Yup, hay.

Now get yourself to the fair! You have until Sunday, Oct. 24.

Denver, design mecca?

October 17, 2010

Irving Harper's Marshmallow Sofa (1956)

When you think of Denver, Colo., you likely conjure images of cowboys, the Mile High Stadium, Coors beer, and of course the Rocky Mountains. But as the location of one of the world’s best collections of mid-century modern design and decorative art? Hardly.

OK, you know where this is headed. It is indeed! The last time I was in town, my pal Kelley Griffin said that I must, simply must visit “the Kirkland.” And so I did. And I was wowed. Wow! Here’s the little ditty I wrote about it, which appears today as a “Rave” in the Boston Globe Travel section (finally!). 

In Colorado, cutting-edge design on display

Vance Kirkland’s studio remains intact, including the straps he used to suspend himself above his horizontal canvases

DENVER — You might want to wear your shades inside the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art. Bright colors, crazy shapes, and offbeat objects — more than 3,300 of them — are packed into every conceivable cranny of the small downtown space. For starters, mid-century modern and Art Deco devotees will want to seek out the shiny chrome 1937 Electrolux vacuum, original-production 1956 “Marshmallow Sofa,” and the 1931 Jazz Bowl by Viktor Schreckengost, the museum’s American Art Deco masterpiece. Decorative objects share space with paintings from 170 Colorado artists of the last century. The star among them is namesake Vance Kirkland (1904-81), a design collector and eccentric painter whose own art incorporated, at times, Surrealism, abstract expressionism, and dots.

The 1931 Jazz Bowl by Viktor Schreckengost

The museum was founded in 2003 by his heir, curator Hugh Grant. The building had been Kirkland’s studio, and his work space remains intact, including the straps he used to suspend himself above his horizontal canvases after he became frail. While Grant started the museum with the modest goal of preserving Kirkland’s legacy and displaying his beloved objects, it has turned into something much bigger: a world-renowned design showcase.

1311 Pearl St., 303-832-8576 , Closed Monday. Adults $7; children under age 13 not admitted.

Seeing America at World’s Largest Yard Sale

October 5, 2010

This was first published Jan. 17, 2010, in my Boston Globe column “Where they Went.”  Now that the 2010 yard sale has passed, it’s time to make hotel reservations for 2011. Seriously. Do it now. Take it from the Dianes.

Diane Bouvier (left) and Diane Cormier at the giant yard sale

WHO: Diane Bouvier, 50, of Athol, Mass., and Diane Cormier, 51, of Ashburnham, Mass.

WHERE: Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio

WHEN: Four days in August

WHY: To tour part of The World’s Longest Yard Sale along 654 miles of US Highway 127 from Alabama to Ohio.

Diane Cormier tries out a really big lawn chair for sale in Ohio

THRILL-SEEKERS: “We both like going to country auctions and poking around in antique stores. It’s the thrill of the treasure hunt,’’ Bouvier said. The two nurses have been friends since working together at a Worcester hospital 15 years ago.

SHOPPING LIST: “You have to plan ahead to go,’’ she said of the event started by a man in Jamestown, Tenn., in 1987. “Diane figured out the amount of driving it would take each day and looked for the closest hotels. We booked them and the flights in April. We used the sale’s website to get little tips and a feel for what was going on.’’

TRASH TO TREASURES: “Sometimes, fields were set up on both sides with tons of tables, and the whole community was involved, and other times it was personal yard sales along the way,’’ Bouvier said. “There was a huge variety of stuff for sale. It ran the gamut from flea market to high-end dealers.’’

Diane Cormier with popular Southern game of Corn Hole in Kentucky

DOG DAYS: The friends set off from Nashville, cash in hand, in their rented box truck, heading for Crossville, the nearest town on Highway 127. “The traffic picked up heading there, but mostly it was totally spread out. There were license plates from all over.’’ They would typically get out of the car at least 10 times a day, and walked a lot during stops. “It was pretty hot. I liked that people put water out for dogs,’’ she said. “You could really tell that everyone was getting into it. Bargaining was expected, but it was all good-natured. Everyone was having fun.’’

CHECKED ITEMS: On the second day, in Kentucky, both women found things on their lists. “Diane was looking for an old fireplace mantle, the top and the sides. She was also looking for two old cowbells for her camp, and she found those, too. I got a lampshade for an antique lamp I’d been looking for.’’ They were happy with the prices, too.

FRIENDLY FOLKS: “I got a little taste of the culture there,’’ she said. “Southern hospitality holds true. One man pulled us out of the ditch we got the truck stuck in.’’ Other shoppers were friendly and chatty. “At the hotels at breakfast, everyone would ask, ‘Are you yard-salers?’ We met a lot of mothers and daughters.’’

NICEST NICKEL: Bouvier’s “best bargain’’ came on the final day. “For five cents I got a 6-inch ruler stamped with the name of a company – and Route 127. It was the perfect souvenir.’’