Tales from the road: Sorrento where the sky grieves with us


We arrive at Hotel Regina, a jewel box by the sea in Sorrento, where a two day day storm of infinite beauty and fury commences. Andy’s cold also begins its furious, dripping journey.

We are holed up in our glass encased room, only leaving for meals during merciful breaks in the torrential rains, lightning and thunder. Three of five meals are at Taverna Abruzzo in the harbor, both the best and closest restaurant to us as we are now well past tourist season and many places are closed. By our last supper, the owner is plying us with gifts of prosecco , fortified wine and limoncello. We stuff ourselves with pasta and clam sauce and fresh grilled sea bass.

What do we do all day in our room with a sea view? We take photos of the changing sky over Mount Vesuvius: The clouds, the rainbows, the sudden darkening skies before the clouds split open.

Watching the variable sky is vastly more interesting than surfing the few English language channels in Europe that only offer a steady diet of news; BBC America, CNN, Bloomberg,  Euronews. Not one hotel offers any English language entertainment and we cannot take any more mewling and puking news media. We are so done with pundits and polls and politics. The skies of Sorrento echo our tears and frustration.

We do, however, discover that our slow  internet supports  playing Ted Talks, podcasts and later we  expand to webisodes of “comedians in cars getting coffee” with Jerry Seinfeld., particularly enjoying the one with President Obama. I also read the extraordinary book “Flight Behavior” by Barbara Kingsolver and write this blog post. A. strums his portable guitar.  The days and the storm pass slowly.

Despite our plans, there would be no visit to Pompeii or Herculaneum on this leg of our journey. No drive to Positano or along the Amalfi Coast. No ferry to the Isle of Capri. There will just be rain outside our Sorrento windows and sniffles inside.

Yesterday, our last day, was a hard traveling one of trains and connections toward Rome where we end up stranded at a hotel near their airport. There is nothing else nearby.

A. is still sick so we eat at the hotel and retire early for our 4 am wake up call to begin the long flight home.

Before we turn out the light, we catch a youtube segment of Saturday Night Live. It is the opening with Kate McKinnon in her Hilary white suit singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelulah” in a moving elegy to all of our shared grief over an election lost.

It’s been a long, strange ride this trip and we are ready to come home.

Zite vs. Flipboard? Internet candy or Internet crack?


Until recently, Flipboard has been my internet mag of choice.  The genius idea of gathering your all Facebook and Twitter posts and turning them into graphically engaging magazine pages made it so much more compelling than reading endless streams of tweets and social bleats on the actual FB and Twitter feeds. It made my life look more like Life Magazine and less like Life cereal.

Flipboard also offers an addictive selection of other content providers to suit your every interest and private passion. It allows you to choose content providers you like and turn them into your own private Zine. I’m partial to Food 52, Ted Talks, Design Sponge, Bay Area Bites, CNN Breaking News  and Fortune Magazine. There are literally dozens of pop content providers to choose from in all categories.
Until recently, I loved my nightly tryst with Flipboard with its gorgeous graphics and compelling page layouts. I’d waste endless insomniac hours on bits of fluff and semi-useful kernals because it was so easy to just flip the “pages.” and find something new.

So, when I first found Zite, I was a bit snobby about it. The layouts are not as elegant. The  content choices are not so clear cut. And worst of all, Zite deigned to recommend more articles I might like if I simply clicked on an up arrow on items I enjoyed. Well, we all know how bad these suggestion engines are! Amazon continues to think I need computer cables because I once did or assures me I’d like a book because of a previous purchase…for someone else! One of the things I tell my still print-literate friends is that I love the New York Times because it exposes me to new stories I’d never have read otherwise. The NY Times in print doesn’t put blinders on my reading habits, funneling me into a reading feedlot like a farmed pig.

But I digress. For months, I avoided  Zite in favor of Flipboard’s more comely competition. But one  particularly sleepless night, I decided to give it another go. And I found myself reading lots of articles I’d never seen before and giving them the thumbs up. In fact, on some articles, I could be really specific about what I specifically enjoyed about the article– the writer, the topic, the recipe, etc. The next night, I opened my Zite and found even more interesting articles. I thumbed those winners. I chose a few new categories, even made my own “San Francisco.” Night afer night, Zite was offering me more tasty gleanings. They were giving me bliss. They were giving me brain candy. No, in truth, they were giving me Internet Crack. So addictive. So scary. So seductive!

Frankly, I now look forward to my nightly Zite tryst to see what new pleasures my online lover has cooked up for me. Tasty little morsels of information for me and me alone. I have been seduced by the most attentive of pursuers and I have given in.

But. Enough. Confessions. Enough details of my sordid attraction to Zite. My shameful abandonment of Flipboard. Well almost abandonment as I am still lured by those still sexy layouts of FB and Twitter feeds. And, Flipboard has one other weapon that also keeps me dallying:  the “curators.” In my deeply disorganized life, a little curation is a good thing. Flipboard has these uber taste-makers & content editors in spades. My current favorites are Michael Pollen (Food industrial Complex), Maria Popova (cultural ideas and trends), Design Sponge (design) etc.

Ok, I confess. I am unfaithful. I am a slut. I am sleeping with both Flipboard and Zite.  But I cannot choose. Do I have to? Do you?

Newspapers may be dying but long live the New York Times


New York, New York. Newsroom of the New York T...
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This Sunday’s New York Times reminds me anew of all the reasons I love my Sunday morning newspaper. There were so many articles this week that captured my imagination, my emotions and my heart.

Lately, I’ve been quickly skimming the political articles and vitriolic news headlines knowing that they could easily ruin my day because Sunday is my one escape from our all news, all the time media environment.  Instead, I luxuriate in the little human stories that I might otherwise miss or never discover when relying on online news.

Here’s a few I’d recommend to you:
Main News Section: With No More Cowboys Taking Vows, Monastery Quits the Cattle Business. As a lifelong urbanite, this was an intimate trip into both the monastic life and farm life. These dual tough callings were shared through the eyes of  76 year old Brother Placid Gross, He is an archetype we too rarely see.– strong, silent and devout.

From the Sunday Styles section: Maybe it’s Time for Plan C. So many women’s magazines glamorize the career-switcher or re-inventor who trades in a conventional job for a thrilling new life. This article reminds us of the reality facing most entrepreneurs including long hours, low pay, uncertainty and no benefits. It’s not all cupcakes out there, girlfriend, when everyone wants to be a chocolatier or wedding planner.

Also in that section, Through Books, A Grief Allayed. How one woman read a book a day to recover from the loss of her beloved sister.  Her blog readallday.org attracted many others to share the volumes that saved their lives or gave them new meaning.

From the Sunday Review: I Won’t Have the Stomach for This. How likely is it that you’d enjoy reading an article about a woman with stomach cancer? But this wonderful essay about the last weeks before surgery when the author and her husband ate gustfully and lovingly along the East Coast, savoring great meals as though they were their last (it was hers) was such a delicious journey of love, lust and gluttony. The good news is she can still eat…but in ladylike tidbits.

In the same section A brief interview with Anthony Bourdain of TV’s “No Reservations” was a little slip of a delight . I want to check out his music picks and Twitter faves.

In the Travel Section: After 500 Miles, Hitting a Wall. I read earlier about writer Bruce Weber’s plan to recreate a cross-country bike trip of his youth as a 57 year old. Now 500 miles into the journey, it was both hard and heartening to catch up with him. The road has forced him to pare down both his possessions and ambitions as summer heat and aging flesh took their toll. My favorite quote: “Moving forward is the cure for all ills. Keep pedaling.”

I save the Sunday Magazine for last, holding off till late day. The New York Times is the central structure of an unstructured Sunday. And I like it that way.

Letting go of my book club


Stacking books until...
Image by Alexandre Dulaunoy via Flickr

After 13 years of faithful attendance , I have abandoned my book club. It was a serious, considered decision. During all those years, our group not only read masterpieces and mediocrities, we shared the ups and downs of our lives: children, jobs & loss of jobs, illnesses, relationship issues, politics and more. We had our little rituals: December’s book was always food-related and we enjoyed all of Ruth Reichl‘s books and many others along with a holiday dinner themed around book’s topic or recipes contained.

As time went on, food began to play a larger role in most of our meetings, with everyone bringing some veggie, snack , dessert or or nourishment so that those of us who came straight from work wouldn’t pass out from hunger as we passed out the literary criticism.

But, in the last few years, I’ve been reading more books than ever (and one of my requirements is that they be books on CD so I can read on my commute) and I didn’t like having to buy books that I wasn’t even sure I’d love just because it was the monthly pick.

Then, of late, my honey and I have been taking swing dance lessons on Tuesdays which conflicted with our 2nd Tuesday book meetings. And so, I did the deed. I told them I was bowing out.

With our group as small as it is, I worried my departure would be the death knell of this lovely coterie of women. But surprise– they decided to continue on. For many, their commitment to read was build on their obligation to the others.  So, I look forward to hear of their upcoming readings and to share some of my own discoveries and perhaps make guest appearances when a 2nd Tuesday frees up.

I can’t leave this book-related post without offering some book recommendations. Here are some of my recent favorites: Freedom (modern culture & marriage); The Reliable Wife (sexy/poetic); Object of Beauty  (inside the art business); The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake (charming and quirky) and Cutting for Stone (amazing storytelling)

So, farewell to my Book Club. Thanks for the memories & the many chapters of our lives we’ve shared and read. I’m turning the page….

How do I love thee Sunset Magazine? Let me count the ways.


Sunset from January 1907. Cover illustration b...
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Sunset Magazine is my favorite periodical. It’s the “Magazine of Western Living” with content maximized for where in the West you live. It’s loaded with articles on local day and weekend trips including details on nearby restaurants and sights. It’s full of glorious hikes and trails to discover in your neck of the woods, desert or beach. It has fantastic recipes that leverage our bounty of gorgeous food and our aspirations for healthier living. There are home & garden projects that take you into some of the cutest, coolest or classiest homes in the area. The photography, illustrations and clever, concise writing make it a grown up picture book that inspires you to live fully on every level.

There are no beauty articles, no politics, no fashion, no diets, no stress. It’s a magazine for both men and women.  I opened the March issue last night  and found myself circling  ideas for upcoming hike and bike day trips including waterfalls and wineries from their article “18 ways to welcome spring.” And I’ll have to try the recipe for Grilled Chicken Dijon with fresh mustard. Every page brings a new spark of excitement about how to make the most of where and how you live.

Sunset Magazine also reminds me how blessed we are to live in country filled with spectacular scenery, bountiful food and do it yourself spirit. They have been capturing and updating Western Life since 1898. You don’t have to live here to subscribe…but you may want to!

Think I’ll start planting a spring garden this weekend!