Monday, August 29, 2011

Intermission -- the Book

Sam asked, "How long did it take to make this book?" Answer: "Over a year." Weve been back over a year. The book is now out. It had a press run of one, so if you want to see it in the flesh, you have to come over.  Or you can see the online version here:

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Act 2 -- The Curtain Rises

Five months and 10 days.  A good run.  A good rest.  A good adventure.  A good period of self reflection.  Making friends. Trying new food.  Spending time with Susan. Traveling. 

And it comes to an end tomorrow.  I go back to work. 

I'd gotten so used to NOT going to work.  When we were traveling, sometimes Susan and I would look at each other and proclaim, "What have we done?", or "Are we really doing this?"  We'd meet people and explain what were were doing, and be met with a look of puzzlement.  What we were doing was not "normal", but as far as we were concerned, it should be.  If you have a chance to take a break somewhere mid career, go for it.

I am ready to go back.  Have a mission that is not just about "me".  There were times I felt guilty about being so self-absorbed, but then I knew it was only temporary.  It was important to spend time on "me".

I take away from the adventure that there's a balance between taking care of my own needs, and contributing to my community.  Whether that community is my family, my neighborhood, my profession or my world.  Moving forward, I hope to keep the world in balance.  Between my workaday life, and other interests. 

Just Give Me a Project
 I'm 52.  "Normal" retirement age is 13 years from now.  Or maybe 15, depending on how you calculate it.  And it's not abnormal for people to live into their 70s, 80s and beyond.  That's a lot of years.  If at some point I stop working in the normal sense of the world, what will I do?

What will I do? It's a question that will be faced in droves by my generation.  The boomers.  And as I've talked to people around my age, I hear the questions being asked. 

So, give me a project.   Or, more specifically, I'll be finding projects that I want to do.  Some will be at work.  After all, I'm an urban planning consultant, and I get paid to manage projects.  But there are other projects needing doing.  Long before I retire.  So that when the time comes to retire, I'll still be active, and more importantly, relevant.

I'll be exploring new frontiers in food.  New frontiers that are really old, but somehow over the last few generations have been lost.  We're in the best of times and the worst of times.  The best in that there is so much cheap food available that we no longer have to worry about getting enough calories just to survive.  The worst in that there are so many cheap calories around that we've developed diets and lifestyles that make us ill.  That's a simplistic summary of a complicated problem, and if you're interested, please check out books by Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman who have written extensively and eloquently on the subject. 

Anyway, I'm a pretty practical guy, so I hope to search out new foods, try or invent new recipes, and tell the story through photos, video, and writing on my food blog, Improbable Pantry.  I've been writing there (and my previous blog, Chowplay, for a couple of years, but I hope to be a little more focused, and see if I can actually get a few people beyond my friends to read it. Stay tuned!

So, as I sit here on this warm (finally pleasant) summer evening on the back patio, protected from the mosquitoes by the tiki lamps and mosquito coils that actually seem to be working today, I look forward to the next act. And remember those days when I was THIS laid back...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Winding down, winding up. But then there's the food!

This five month break is winding down. I go back to work in five days. Five days! Less than a week. I could get philosophical about this. And maybe I will. But not now.

Right now, I just want to enjoy the memories. And transition.

Intermission is ending, but I'm gearing up some other exciting activities on my other blog, Improbable Pantry, about cooking and eating. So, migrate over to that site, and see what's cooking.

It seemed only fitting, then, to do a little tribute to the food of our trip, mostly in Europe, but some in North America and the Caribbean. Just a bit of fun. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Boston, as Visitor

DSC06609We've been back for two weeks now, and it finally occurred to us to be tourists in our own town.  Our traveling instincts said to take the day to get the feel of the place before we figured out what to do.  But hey, we know Boston, and we were up for a walk, so we decided to check out the new(ish) Rose Kennedy Greenway.  I had watched it be built from occasional meetings at the top of One Financial Center, and had seen pieces of it completed,

Bottom line -- a decent start, but still a long ways to go. There were stretches that were wide open without a whole lot to recommend them.  This section here was filled in some more with attractive landscaping, and a cool (pun intended) misting fountain.

DSC06615Further south, we enjoyed the plantings, and there were some people strolling, but really, the activity level was moderate, but certainly not buzzing.  Certainly not buzzing like some of the public spaces we saw in Europe.

DSC06620We had just finished saying that what the Greenway needed was some food vendors, when we came upon this sight of a single food truck, called Clover, selling mostly vegetarian fare.  The food coming out looked good and healthy, reasonably sized, and the menu items were inexpensive -- about five bucks for a sandwich..  The Rhubarb Agua Fresca we tried was excellent -- not too sweet, though the iced coffee was a little bitter.  We discovered that this was only their third day at the Dewey Square location. And then, when we picked up the Boston Globe the next day, we were encouraged to see this article about how there soon will be many more vendors in the square.   Here's hoping that the food attracts and keeps more people to the Greenway.

Check out a few more pictures of our stroll on Flickr.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

So long, farewell, auf viedersehn, adieu

View Intermission in a larger map

Tonight's our last night on this European journey and we're winding down. We drive Brussels-Frankfurt tomorrow, and fly home in the evening.

We visited a lot of places. Spoke a few languages. Ate good food. Met good people. Saw this part of the world from different perspectives. Learned how much we didn't know, how much we take for granted, how things are not always as they seem. And how to find toilets in unfamiliar places.

Eleven+ weeks on the European portion of the journey. More than 14 weeks if you count the western hemisphere piece. We'll miss this vagabond life, but are happy to be heading home. And Susan and I still talk to each other!

I hope to do some more processing over the next few weeks -- of pictures, thoughts, reactions, comparisons. So this blog will continue.

Outdoor culture in The Netherlands

We tend to think of outdoor cafes in Paris, but we've found them all over in our travels.  But none have been as ubiquitous and energetic as those we found in The Netherlands.  In Amsterdam, there are whole streets taken over by outdoor dining, with one restaurant's seating flowing into the next.  And the large squares are often filled with seating.  These scenes repeat every few blocks.  Leave one buzzing plaza, walk a couple of blocks, and come upon another, also buzzing.  This is true in tourist areas and neighborhoods.  Moving on to The Hague and Delft, we found this as well.

It finally occurred to me that taking a simple photo would not convey the energy, so I opted for the video approach to capture the bee-hive.  This one was in Delft, on a public holiday when all the stores were closed.   But you can still feel it.  It is on the sight of the old cow market.  I suspect the buzz was a little different then.

And they all served Belgian beer!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I'm falling for the blonds

We're back on the whirlwind of travel. Since the flamingos in the Camargue, we've been to Antibes (near Cannes, a few days ahead of the filmsters); Liguria in Italy, not far from Nice, up on the mountaintop where Susan's sister Julia and Dudu live, among the medieval villages perched on the sides of mountains; Dusseldorf, where Susan's brother Sam lives with his family, Amsterdam and environs, and now in Brussels. We've gone from the places where wine is served with all meals to where beer is served with all meals and at snacks. I'm by no means a beer maven. I like a beer once in awhile, but often find that a beer makes me tired, so over the years, I've avoided them except for accompanying pizza and Mexican food, and to be social.

I challenge anyone to be in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany without falling in love with the beer. As with wine and cheeses, I find that I can't remember the names of the ones I like from sitting to sitting. In Provence, I got accustomed to ordering the Cotes du Rhone or Cotes du Luberon wines, but couldn't tell you from which vineyard or town. The cheeses in the markets were so numerous and I wanted to try so many that I couldn't remember the ones I liked.

Belgian beer is world famous. And I'm finding out why. Beer accompanies lunch, late afternoon apertif, and dinner. In my world of beer there has been lights and darks. And perhaps I'd order a Pilsner or Lager on occasion if I wanted to seem like I knew what I was doing.

One day, Susan ordered a Duvel beer. A blond Belgian beer. I had ordered something else -- perhaps something dark, I really don't remember. When I tasted her Duvel, I was in love. It was smooth. Not bitter. A deep rich taste. Gorgeous color. Great curves. (In Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany each beer is served in its own distinctive glass). Next time, it was me that ordered the Duvel. And since then I've tried the blonds on the menu. Each has been great. Each with its own taste, but as a family, these Belgian blonds have captured my heart.

Susan thinks we can find Duvel back home.  I hope so!