The garden transformed

May I a small house and large garden have;
And a few friends,
And many books, both true.
– Abraham Cowley, 17th century English poet

So it begins. Spring has arrived and after last year’s disappointing gardening season, I knew a new beginning was in store this year. We are in the midst of a big landscaping project. We started with the side garden in late February – revitalizing the dahlias by digging them up, separating the tubers, replanting them in amended soil, and installing a new sprinkler system. I anxiously checked out the side yard every few weeks. In April, to my great delight, the soil broke as the dahlia plants slowly made their way to light. With great care, I sprinkled Sluggo and diatemaceous earth around the sprouts. I even came out in the evenings and early in the mornings to scrap slugs off the leaves onto the flagstone.

Dahlias sprouting in the pots.

Fledgling dahlias in the side yard in April.

Dahlias in pots and in the ground in the side yard.

Nurturing the dahlias with Sluggo and diatemaceous earth rings around the plants.

Then I hurt my back playing with our dog, Sammy. I couldn’t walk, drive, or move much. So for weeks I was unable to tend to my garden. And then after Mother’s Day I came down with a nasty virus. I’m still not quite over it, but I was able to get out this Memorial Day Weekend to work on the yard – placing the pots in the backyard, weeding, and pinching back buds so that the dahlias will give me big blooms. The leaves are still being eaten, so I need to take care of those insects, but after being absent from the side yard for weeks, I was pleasantly surprised to see how strong the stalks are.

An April birthday bouquet for Kelly – the calla lilies were starting to expire and the alstromeria were going bonkers.

Mother’s Day bouquet for my mother-in-law, Ann. One for Kelly and one in my heart for my mom.

A May 21st bouquet for Kelly reveals the first dahlia from the garden!

Close-up of the first dahlia, surrounded by hydrangea, dianthus, and alstromeria.

Another close-up with a delicate hydrangea.

One more close-up.

To date, 88 plants have sprung up. One dahlia – the orange and yellow ones in a pot – has bloomed. And more will be ready within a week or so. I have committed to the two school auction bouquets this year – my last year with Korematsu Middle School (as Isabella enters high school in the fall) and El Cerrito High School. One of the moms who got the Korematsu weekly bouquet is a repeat winner. She got it two years ago. She split with another family, so even though they agreed to have a bouquet every other week, I’m going to see if I can do two bouquets for each family each week for 10 weeks. And then the third one will be for the high school auction winner. And finally, this year I gave as a birthday present a weekly bouquet to my friend Kelly. Let’s see if 88 plants can give me four bounteous bouquets for 10 weeks, starting the first full week in June. Fingers crossed.

I was asked to make three bouquets for the graduating senior baseball players’ families, which I happily obliged for the May 3rd game.

I was able to use the watsonias from our front garden, even though the flowers were on their way out.

A little scabiosa and our neighbor’s succulent purple plant.

Just enough to make three bouquets at once.

The alstromeria will soon be giving way to the dahlia bouquets.

The ginger plants are sprouting like crazy, too. This ginger plant anchors this Memorial Day Weekend arrangement.

I’m really looking forward to this gardening year. In the backyard we will have six planting beds. Two for vegetables and four for flowers. I’d like to expand my dianthus garden. We’ll see what else the garden will grow this year. It should be a beautiful, colorful summer of flowers.

A healthy crop of dahlias.

A bit uneven as not all of the tubers sprouted.

I spent the weekend weeding and pinching back buds. I was heartened to see how thick the stalks are.

Even the dark corners are sprouting dahlias!

Fingers crossed for these vigorous dahlias!

The side yard dahlia garden is resembling the healthy garden of 2013.

The fading garden

We know that in September, we will wander through the warm winds of summer’s wreckage. We will welcome summer’s ghost.
 – Henry Rollins, American musician, actor, comedian, and television and radio host

We head into autumn with school having begun and thoughts of cutting back the straw-like stalks of dahlias. But wait! The dahlias dried up back in July, and I begged and coaxed the remaining ones that were fighting the perennial powdery mildew to please allow their buds to bloom and not turn black and wither on the stem.

Ginger plant, hydrangea, alstroemeria, dianthus, and dahlia bouquet.

A mid-June bouquet of ginger plant, hydrangea, alstroemeria, dianthus, and dahlias.

New dahlia on the left reminds me of sherbet. Unfortunately, only two blooms came from this dahlia plant.

New dahlia on the left reminds me of sherbet. Unfortunately, only two blooms came from this dahlia plant. And the white dahlia petered out early, too.

One of my favorite dahlias - dark red cherry in color - only gave a few blooms before drying out.

One of my favorite dahlias – dark red cherry in color – only gave a few blooms before drying out.

Each week, as I cut the meager flowers, I didn’t think that I would make it to my tenth week of delivering the middle school auction bouquets. But I did, and I believe my last bouquet of the season turned out to be the last bouquet of the auction.

A 4th of July bouquet with a rare gladiola. Our gladiola patch produced maybe five blooms at the most this season, which is unheard of all the years we've been in our home.

A 4th of July bouquet with a rare gladiola. Our gladiola patch produced maybe five blooms at the most this season, which is unheard of all the years we’ve been in our home.

The light yellow dahlia, which is the first ones to come up, hung tough this season. And another dark magenta bloom!

The light yellow dahlia, which is the first ones to come up, hung tough this season. And another dark magenta bloom!

Another sherbet dahlia. That's two this season!

Another sherbet dahlia. That’s two this season!

And each week, I saw the blooms shrink in size. As I was compiling the last six bouquets of the season, I saw photographs of previous seasons. Many of those dahlias never came up. Many of the ones that did come up never bloomed, or gave a few blooms and then went barren. Even the new dahlias that I planted withered within weeks.

Alstroemeria is still going strong for this mid-July bouquet.

Alstroemeria is still going strong for this mid-July bouquet.

First blooms from my dark red and white dahlia on the left and a small dark magenta bloom at the top.

First blooms from my dark red and white dahlia on the left and a small dark magenta bloom at the top.

Deep purple dahlia from Costco came up strong, but only gave a few blooms this season. At least this was dinner-plate size.

Deep purple dahlia from Costco came up strong, but only gave a few blooms this season. At least this was dinner-plate size. Flanked by scabiosa anthemifolia and alstroemeria.

The third sherbet bloom of the season peeking out in this bouquet.

The third sherbet bloom of the season peeking out in this bouquet.

We battled a gopher in our backyard. Could the varmint be eating the roots of my beloved dahlias? Or could the squirrels who are chewing off branches from our ginkgo and magnolia trees – something we’ve never seen happen before – be messing with my flowers?

Thank goodness for the large hydrangea blooms, which filled the vase when the dahlias began petering out for this third-week July bouquet. But even the hydrangeas started turning brown.

Thank goodness for the large hydrangea blooms, which filled the vase when the dahlias began petering out for this third-week July bouquet. But even the hydrangeas started turning brown.

Or could the dahlia tubers have drowned in the clay soil during our El Nino winter, which was quite wet in November through January? I won’t know until I dig them up and see if they are shriveled up.

End of July bouquet: the height of the vase gets shorter. This bouquet is helped with a new hydrangea plant in a beautiful blue hue and my neighbor's purple succulent blooms.

End of July bouquet: the height of the vase gets shorter. This bouquet is helped with a new hydrangea plant in a beautiful blue hue, centaurea cyanus, and my neighbor’s purple succulent blooms.

Two different hydrangea blooms.

Two different hydrangea blooms.

This bouquet is helped with our smaller dahlias, which are planted in pots that flank our courtyard. They remained healthy and produced nice blooms until powdery mildew crept in by late July.

This bouquet is helped with our smaller dahlias, which are planted in pots that flank our courtyard. They remained healthy and produced nice blooms until powdery mildew crept in by late July. The centaurea cynamus at the top left are growing nicely with the peach tree providing nice shade.

Another close-up with the perfect orange dahlia bloom.

Another close-up with the perfect orange dahlia bloom.

Wide swathes of dirt made the side yard look like a desert. Perhaps some blight swept through the side yard. I’ll have to take a sample to a local nursery and find out what I’m doing wrong. I mourn my garden of years past.

A volunteer gladiola sprouted in our front yard. I took it before the deer could!

A volunteer gladiola sprouted in our front yard. I took it before the deer could!

The first bouquet of August.

The first bouquet of August with an abundance of scabiosa anthemifolia and centaurea cyanus complementing the peach-colored gladiola.

Close-up of this early August bouquet.

Close-up of this early August bouquet.

A rare pink dahlia with a rare dianthus.

A rare pink dahlia with a rare dianthus and nice-sized scabiosa anthemifolia.

Next season I vow to bring the garden back. But in the meantime, I’ll enjoy the bouquets that I managed to create.

The final bouquet of the season is helped tremendously by our friend's fragrant rose!

The final bouquet of the season is helped tremendously by our friend’s fragrant rose!

The modest backside of this bouquet. Note the much-smaller blooms.

The modest backside of this bouquet. Note the much-smaller blooms.

Close-up at an angle.

Close-up at an angle.

Final bouquet of the season. Last close-up.

Final bouquet of the season. Last close-up.

Love, Portland and Stonington, Maine

In the life of each of us there is a place remote and islanded, and given to endless regret or secret happiness.
– Sarah Orne Jewett, an American novelist and short story writer, best known for her local color works set in or near South Berwick, Maine, from The Country of the Pointed Firs and Other Stories

Outside of Scales Restaurant, 68 Commercial Street, Portland.

Outside of Scales Restaurant, 68 Commercial Street, Portland.

Happily and luckily, I’ve been coming to Maine for a week in the summer for the last 10 years. The company that I work for – HIMSS Media – was originally MedTech Publishing, which was co-founded by my good friend, Jack Beaudoin in 2003. He and his business partner, Neil Rouda, lived and still live in Maine, which is why the Summer Summits were based there. Every first week of August, the remote workers – I was a freelance writer until I became an FTE in 2010 – would descend upon the company headquarters in New Gloucester and have editorial and sales and marketing meetings. While the out-of-towners stayed at the beautiful Merrill Farmhouse on Pineland Farms, I stayed with Jack’s family. We had wonderful employee-bonding activities such as geocaching (the non-technology kind) and cheese and wine tasting on the Pineland grounds and having a lobster bake on Peak’s Island, a ferry ride away from Portland.

After a cross-country red-eye flight, nothing better than to have Sunday brunch with old coworker Eric Wickland at Sonny's Restaurant, 83 Exchange Street, Portland. Eggs, potatoes, and grilled cornbread.

After a cross-country red-eye flight, nothing better than to have Sunday brunch with old coworker Eric Wickland at Sonny’s Restaurant (83 Exchange Street, Portland). Eggs, potatoes, and grilled cornbread.

The whole company took the ferry to Peak's Island to enjoy the sunset, play deck games, and drink and eat.

The whole company took the ferry to Peak’s Island to enjoy the sunset, play deck games, and drink and eat.

In time, the company was renamed MedTech Media and then sold to minority owner HIMSS and later became HIMSS Media. Jack moved on, and the Summer Summits ceased in 2013. Thankfully, I still return to Maine, but as part of the Summer Sales Meetings, which are now held in July. Every time I return, I am reminded of my initial wonderment when my plane first descended into Portland and I saw these quaint cottages and summer mansions perched on the banks of the many islands off of Casco Bay. And how I fell in love with the land and the lifestyle. It gets me every time.

My sixth-floor room with a view at the Hyatt Place, overlooking Casco Bay.

My sixth-floor room with a view at the Hyatt Place, overlooking Casco Bay.

Sunday evening dinner with the sales team: What's for dinner at Scales Restaurant? Lobster, of course.

Sunday evening dinner with the sales team: What’s for dinner at Scales Restaurant? Lobster, of course.

I’m told that Portland boasts more restaurants per capita than any other city in the United States. I will take it. There are wonderful restaurants around every corner. And there are great little shops all clustered together, which makes for a great Sunday afternoon of wandering around and checking out local and state artisan goods. Love, Portland.

Looks like I found someone at HIMSS Media, my coworker Claretha, who also loves statement earrings, at Tica's on Commercial Street.

Looks like I found someone at HIMSS Media, my coworker Claretha, who also loves statement earrings, at Tica’s on Commercial Street.

Penthouse deck views from The Press Hotel at 119 Exchange Street. Formerly headquarters of The Press Herald newspaper, it's now a boutique hotel with a very distinct journalism aesthetic. No, the seagull did not photo bomb me; he just wouldn't get out of the way.

Penthouse deck views from The Press Hotel (119 Exchange Street). Formerly headquarters of The Press Herald newspaper, it’s now a boutique hotel with a very distinct journalist aesthetic. No, the seagull did not photo bomb me; he just wouldn’t get out of the way.

Last meal in Portland at Solo Italiano, 100 Commercial Street - very good pasta.

Last meal in Portland at Solo Italiano (100 Commercial Street) – very good pasta.

After a very packed Summer Sales Meeting week, I met up with Jack and family dog, Holly, and we set out for a three-hour drive northeast to their second home in Stonington, a quaint and beautiful town on a bridged island in Penobscot Bay. The road to Stonington, once we got off the highway, is not really winding as it is up and down, which didn’t sit well with my stomach. Let’s just say that Jack drove much more slowly and cautiously than he’d normally drive, and taking Dramamine on the return trip to Portland eliminated my motion sickness.

Jack and Fay's lovely home in Stonington, complete with a white-picket fence.

Jack and Fay’s lovely home in Stonington, complete with a white-picket fence.

The attic, which has been converted to Jack's writing room, which was a perfect place for me to "work" on a Friday.

The attic, which has been converted to Jack’s writing room and was a perfect place for me to “work” on a Friday.

Jack tells the story of how he and Fay would rent a house in Stonington for vacation early in their marriage. They fell in love with the town and a few years ago bought the home of the former town librarian, who is still alive at the young age of 104 years. They have been slowly and lovingly remodeling the house, which is a stone’s throw from the popular Friday farmer’s market, the downtown area, and the coast. Fay did a beautiful job with the landscaping – everything looks lush and healthy. She has a great eye and is an avid gardener.

Five minutes away to the Friday Farmer's Market, where local crafts and artisan goods, wildflower bouquets, and artisan foods are on display.

Five minutes away to the Friday Farmer’s Market, where local crafts and artisan goods, wildflower bouquets, and artisan foods are on display.

One of the things I really enjoyed about Stonington is that it is a destination for true rest and relaxation. Like my hometown and our visits with my cousin Janet and her husband, Tim, when I am there, I forget about yesterday and tomorrow. I am in the moment, and I take deep breaths and immerse myself in enjoy mode. So it was with Stonington. What I very much appreciated was staying up late Friday evening and Saturday afternoon talking about novels and writing with Jack. Talking shop, as he called it. I don’t have a writing group back home. Most people I trust are the ones with whom I spent two years in Syracuse, who know me and my writing, and who have my best interest at heart. But they are all dispersed. When I was at Syracuse, I was, really, just learning how to write, so I looked up to my more worldly, wiser classmates. But there were only a few writers whose class discussions about craft I listened to with rapt attention and took plenty of notes. Jack was one of them. I valued his commentary on my short stories because he cared and wanted you to do right by your stories and characters. And that’s because Jack is a wonderful writer whose prose is beautiful and precise and whose human insights are startling and real. He believes in the beauty, power, and integrity of story, of fiction. One who has such a writer for a mentor and a friend is twice blessed.

At any rate, here, to have that time talking about, say, structural issues with our current work and discussing how our favorite authors have handled plot or character was magical and so very instructional. I appreciated the immediacy of talking one on one versus communicating via email. So thank you for that, Jack. It made me want to read more and get back to my novel-in-progress.

The inviting view from the kitchen door.

The inviting view from the kitchen door.

I love wraparound porches for their welcoming you to sit and enjoy the view and talk about writing and novels.

I love wraparound porches for their natural ability to welcome you to sit and enjoy the garden and view beyond, and talk about writing and novels.

Just a little bit about the town of Stonington. The lobster and fishing industry support the economy of Stonington and the nearby town of Deer Isle. Many of the fishermen revert to being carpenters or contractors in the off-season. I’m told that these two towns lead Maine in pound and dollar value of lobster landings. The two towns’ waters support some 300 lobster boats during the season. The island is also known for its granite quarries, which go back to the late 1800s and are still being mined today. The granite from John F. Kennedy’s memorial at Arlington National Cemetery was supplied by Stonington’s quarry.

Along the bay is a statue honoring the men who work in the granite quarries.

Along the bay is a statue honoring the men who work in the granite quarries.

In many a front yard of a home in Stonington, you will find stacks of lobster traps and buoys, which mark the lobster fisherman's territory in the bay. Colorful that.

In many of the front yards of homes in Stonington, you will find stacks of lobster traps and colorful buoys, which mark the lobster fisherman’s territory in the bay.

More lobster? Yes, please!

More lobster for dinner on a Friday evening? Yes, please!

One never gets tired of lobster while in Maine.

One never gets tired of lobster while in Maine.

One of the things I loved about our walk to the downtown was the historic homes that bore the names of their original owners. Some were weathered, giving way to their age. Others were happily restored to a gleaming white, which blazed in the July sun, and stood out against the blue sky, blue bay, and green hills. There were B&Bs, a wine shop, art houses and galleries, little shops, and the historic Stonington Opera House. But there were no touristy shops – the shop that did sell t-shirts and the like was low-key and, I dare say, dignified.

On the walk from Jack and Fay's house to the waterfront, there is a wonderful art installation of a weathered window and two Adirondack chairs positioned in front of the window. Brilliant.

On the walk from Jack and Fay’s house to the waterfront, there is a wonderful art installation of a free-standing weathered window and two Adirondack chairs positioned in front of the window. Brilliant.

The other side of the window and two chairs, with a beautiful spacious white house in the background.

The other side of the window and two chairs, with a beautiful spacious white house in the background.

A view of the bay, which, when coming around the bend, takes your breath away.

A view of the bay, which, when coming around the bend, takes your breath away.

I think this is a B&B set back from the road. Beautiful, isn't it? Imagine the bay views from the bedrooms and front porch!

I think this is a B&B set back from the road. Beautiful, isn’t it? Imagine the bay views from the front bedrooms and porch!

Colorful flowers everywhere.

Colorful flowers everywhere.

A home with an art studio.

A home with an art studio.

A “Mini Village” is nestled beneath a pine tree downtown. The sign on the tree tells of its origins: “Stonington’s Mini Village set up in this little park area was the creation of Everett Knowlton (b. April 7, 1901, d. March 17, 1978) who began building the houses in 1947 as a hobby. He continued to build them at a rate of one a year and slowly grew his ‘perfect peaceful village’ portrayed in these old pictures and portrayed in its original entirety at the Knowlton homestead. After Everett’s death, the new owner of his home donated to the town the Mini Village where each year residents take home the little houses for the winter and bring them back in spring for people to enjoy.”

Part of the "Mini Village."

Part of the “Mini Village.”

On Saturday, we timed the low tide so we could walk to one of the islands. It was a beautiful day, if a tad bit warm. We traversed a woody and ferny path of tangled roots and spongy soil, breathing in every now and then the smell of aromatic pine, before reaching the sand bar that led us to the island. The cloud formations were spectacular, especially against the blue skies and waters. This was quintessential Maine. The water was cold, the island rocky, the pines plentiful. Breathtaking. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

A woody walk to the island.

A woody walk to the island.

Rock, water, pine, sky and clouds.

Rock, water, pine, sky and clouds.

Walking across the sand bar to the island.

Walking across the sand bar to the island.

Those clouds! They are mesmerizing.

Those clouds! They are mesmerizing.

Heaven.

Heaven.

Can't get enough of these views.

Can’t get enough of these views.

On the way back, a peek at the shoreline.

On the way back, a peek at the shoreline.

On my last night, Jack, Fay, and their daughter Genny treated me to dinner at Aragosta (27 Main Street, Stonginton), the farm-to-table restaurant overlooking Stonington Harbor whose chef, Devin Finigan, is Vermont born and raised. Aragosta is cozy inside – wide-plank wooden floors, sofa seating along the walls, white-washed wooden walls – with a stunning view and a walk-down expansive outdoor deck. Stonington lobster ravioli was calling my name. As I took in the views, savored every bite, and enjoyed relaxing dinner conversation, I kept thinking how David would have loved this restaurant, to say nothing of the views. Aragosta, by the way, is the Italian word for lobster. Of course.

Twilight on the bay, on the walk to Aragosta.

Twilight on the bay, on the walk to Aragosta.

Oysters and salad.

Oysters and salad.

My very delicious lobster ravioli.

My very delicious lobster ravioli.

Fay and me after dinner - happy and sated.

Fay and me after dinner – happy and sated.

Jack and his talented daughter Genny, actress, playwright, singer, musician, songwriter. We know where she got her artistic talent! Dad is a wonderful writer whose prose is beautiful and precise and human insights are startling and real.

Jack and his talented daughter Genny, actress, playwright, singer, musician, songwriter. We know where she got her artistic talent! Is that Jack’s author pose? Methinks it is!

Okay, twist my arm. I'll order dessert - a strawberry tart with strawberry ice cream.

Okay, twist my arm. I’ll order dessert – a strawberry tart with strawberry ice cream.

I will admit that photos are a poor substitute for being there. Photos can’t let you hear the lively rain at night or the early morning shower that gently wakes you up. They can’t let you breathe in the lavender in the garden and the pine all over the island. What they can do is make you say: This is where I want to go next. And come back to again and again. Thank you, Jack and Fay, for the beauty, the shop talk, the meals, the rest and relaxation I craved and received with open arms.

Last night on the waterfront in Stonington.

Last night on the waterfront in Stonington.

Ghostly ships on a gray foggy Sunday morning.

Ghostly ships moored in the bay on a gray foggy Sunday morning.

A little fog and rain, grassy hills, and a view of the bay.

A slightly different view: a little fog and rain, grassy hills, and the bay dotted with ships.

Crossing the bridge on our way out of Stonington.

Crossing the bridge on our way out of Stonington.

Early morning Sunday: a quiet pond after the rain. Goodbye, Stonington.

Early morning Sunday: a quiet pond after the rain. Goodbye, Stonington.

New York, New York: Whitney Museum, the High Line, and Empire State Building

There is no place like it, no place with an atom of its glory, pride, and exultancy. It lays its hand upon a man’s bowels; he grows drunk with ecstasy; he grows young and full of glory, he feels that he can never die.
 – Walt Whitman, American poet, essayist, journalist, and humanist

We celebrated Father’s Day on our fifth day in New York. It was another great outing – except that David didn’t get the Father’s Day gift I was hoping to give him, but more on that later. In the morning, we headed to the Whitney Museum of American Art (99 Gansevoort Street, 212.570.3600), in the Lower Village and Meatpacking district sections of lower Manhattan. As we walked through Chelsea Market, we passed Budakkan (75 9th Avenue, 212.989.6699), a cavernous Asian fusion restaurant where David and I had a memorable dinner back in September 2008. It was one of the best meals I ever had. We went to the Budakkan in Philadelphia a few summers back, but it was not as good as the one in New York.

View from the Whitney Museum terrace (photo by David).

View from the Whitney Museum terrace, with the World Trade Center Tower in the background (photo by David).

View from the left of the Whitney Museum terrace. You can see the southern entrance of the High Line Park (photo by David).

View from the left of the Whitney Museum terrace. You can see the southern entrance of the High Line Park (photo by David).

You can see the Empire State Building to the right (photo by David).

You can see the Empire State Building to the right (photo by David).

The Hudson River is behind the museum (photo by David).

The Hudson River is behind the museum (photo by David).

The Whitney Museum: for modern art aficionados
The Whitney Museum, which was founded in 1931 by socialite, sculptor, and art collector Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, moved into its fourth home in May 2015, along the Hudson River. The new main building of glass and steel, designed by Renzo Piano, comprises nine stories and spans a total of 200,000 square feet for indoor galleries, outdoor exhibition spaces, theater, research areas, dining, and other spaces. It is an impressive piece of architecture, embracing industrial, sculptural, and contemporary aesthetics. The top floor boasts an outdoor terrace with amazing views of Lower Manhattan buildings before us and the South entrance of the High Line Park below us. The next two levels below feature outdoor galleries, and all three floors are connected by exterior stairways.

Outdoor sculpture.

Outdoor sculpture.

David's architectural shot.

David’s architectural shot, looking down at one of the terraces.

My interpretation of the terrace below.

My interpretation of the terrace below.

The museum’s collection focuses on 20th and 21st century American art, with more than 3,000 artists – mostly living, which is an emphasis – represented. More than 22,000 paintings, sculptures, photographs, drawings, prints, videos, films, and other artifacts compose the museum’s permanent collection. Back in 1907, recognizing that American artists with new and innovative concepts were finding it difficult to show and sell their artwork, Whitney became their advocate by purchasing their art and building a formidable collection. In 1914, she opened up the Whitney Studio in Greenwich Village to showcase these artists. When the Metropolitan Museum of Art declined Whitney’s offer to contribute more than 500 pieces of art from her personal collection and the newly opened Museum of Modern Art’s collection focused on European modernism, she decided to exhibit her art by founding a museum in 1930. The first museum, which was located in Greenwich Village, opened in 1931. The museum moved in 1954 to a building connected to the Museum of Modern Art on 53rd Street, but moved again to Madison Avenue on the Upper East Side in 1966 when it needed more space for its growing collection. Growth was again the reason for its move to its current location, which is such a lovely, open-feeling space.

Self-portrait by Edward Hopper (photo by David).

Self-portrait (oil on canvas), 1925-1930, by Edward Hopper (photo by David).

Summer Days (oil on canvas), 1936, by Georgia O'Keefe.

Summer Days (oil on canvas), 1936, by Georgia O’Keefe.

Metropolitan Life Insurance Building (gelatin silver print), 1955, from the series The Americans, by Robert Frank.

Metropolitan Life Insurance Building (gelatin silver print), 1955, from the series The Americans, by Robert Frank.

Nine Jackies (acrylic, oil, and screenprint on linen), 1964, by Andy Warhol.

Nine Jackies (acrylic, oil, and screenprint on linen), 1964, by Andy Warhol.

Cool wire art that is reflected against the wall (photo by David).

Cool wire art that is reflected against the wall (photo by David).

This enormous statue is made of wax that continuously burning (photo by David).

This enormous statue is made of wax that is continuously burning (photo by David).

While I’ll admit that some of the artwork didn’t resonate with me – I’m thinking of the videos of this one Chinese-American artist who put together vignettes of her mother’s life in an enclosure surrounded by objects from her childhood and home – I did appreciate the opportunity to be exposed to these types of avant-garde works. When the kids and I descended one flight of exterior stairs to the lower level and were confronted by a flat-screen television exhibiting (literally) one artist’s penis-filled video, they turned around and smirked at me. Isabella wanted to know how this was art. I just shrugged. It’s in the Whitney Museum, so it must be art!

Jacob, David, and Isabella with New York skyline.

Jacob, David, and Isabella with New York skyline.

Next stop: The High Line Park, below the Whitney Museum.

Next stop: The High Line Park, below the Whitney Museum.

High Line Park: revitalization at its best
As I mentioned earlier, the southern entrance to the High Line Park is right next to the Whitney Museum, so once we were finished with the museum, we ascended the steps to the linear park, which was a great revitalization project that began in 1999. In its heyday, the early 1930s, the train line was part of the West Side Improvement Project, running from 34th Street to Spring Street’s St. John’s Park Terminal. “Designed to go through the center of blocks, rather than over the avenue,” trains on this line carried goods to and from Manhattan’s largest industrial district, according to the park’s site. The interstate trucking industry all but displaced the trains by the 1980s. When a group of property owners banded together to get the train line demolished, Peter Obletz, a Chelsea resident, activist, and railroad enthusiast, went to court to preserve the line.

Along the walk you can see the old rails with vegetation happily filling in (photo by David).

Along the walk you can see the old rails with vegetation happily filling in (photo by David).

Interesting buildings all around. Here are three different styles side by side, with a block in black seemingly inserted into the brown building (photo by David).

Interesting buildings all around. Here are three different styles side by side, with a block in black seemingly interlocked into the brown building (photo by David).

And artwork rising up from the grasses.

And artwork rising up from the grasses.

More cool buildings (photo by David).

More cool buildings (photo by David).

In 1999, Joshua David and Robert Hammond, who lived in the High-Line neighborhood, founded Friends of the High Line, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the High Line and converting it into a public open space. Design competitions took place, the transportation agency that owned the line donated it to the City in 2005, and groundbreaking began in 2006. The entire process took 15 years, with section 1 from Gansevoort Street to West 20th Street completed in 2009, section 2 from West 20th Street to West 30th Street completed in 2011, and the final section, which is the northernmost section of the park, to the Rail Yards, completed in September 2014.

All different styles of buildings along the High Line - some modern, some older (photo by David).

All different styles of buildings along the High Line – some modern, some older (photo by David).

Art on buildings in between buildings (photo by David).

Art on buildings in between buildings (photo by David).

Echinacea flowers abloom along the way.

Echinacea flowers abloom along the way.

Two twin block-long buildings of an older vintage (photo by David).

Two twin block-long buildings of an older vintage (photo by David).

Various activities are scheduled throughout the High Line, from dance parties to performances to star-gazing and arts events to horticulture tours. A covered section of the High Line features vendors peddling organic popsicle, gelato, and other tasty treats, as well as photographs, artisan goods, and High-Line swag. We walked almost to the end, getting off to make a direct beeline for our next destination of the Empire State Building. The temperatures were climbing and at some points we were walking in a line like bumper-to-bumper traffic, but we had our moments of just enjoying a walk through this elevated park and enjoying the fruits of preservationists’ labor.

While Jacob and I shopped, David played with his camera (photo by David).

While Jacob and I shopped, David played with his camera (photo by David).

More experimentation with the camera (photo by David).

More experimentation with the camera (photo by David).

Steel walkway with Jacob in the foreground and me in the background (photo by David).

Steel walkway with Jacob in the foreground and me in the background (photo by David).

Greenery everywhere.

Greenery everywhere.

I noticed when we were heading from our apartment to our friend Mason’s condo in the Queens along the Hudson River an abandoned elevated stretch of train tracks that ended abruptly. As this part of town, the Hudson, is being built up, I’m imagining another such park in the sky waiting in the wings.

Cool modern building (photo by David).

Cool modern building (photo by David).

Pedestrians beware!

Pedestrians beware!

Resting under the shade of trees.

Resting under the shade of trees.

Preservation at its best.

Railway and plants living harmoniously together.

Empire State Building: the center of Midtown Manhattan
When I think of the Empire State Building (350 5th Avenue between West 33rd and 34th streets), I am reminded of a story my father told me and my sisters when we were young. Every morning on his way to work, he used to walk by the Empire State Building as it was being built. My father was in New York around 1929, and construction began in March 1930. My father loved New York. He called it the City. When he and his cousins moved to Los Angeles in the 1950s, after WWII, he called Los Angeles the country, and when he moved to Terra Bella – between Bakersfield and Fresno in the Central Valley of California – he called it the camp. At the time of his storytelling, my initial reaction was, “Wow, Dad, you’re old!” Since then, however, I marvel at what he was witnessing – the building of this great building. Once construction began, the building rose 4 ½ stories each week. In 1931, the building, with its beautiful art-deco interior, opened, with President Herbert Hoover hitting a button in Washington, DC, that turned on the lights of the Empire State Building.

Restored art-deco interior of the Empire State Building (photo by David).

Restored art-deco interior of the Empire State Building (photo by David).

As far as the eye can see (photo by David).

As far as the eye can see (photo by David).

David singles out the Flatiron Building.

David singles out the Flatiron Building.

Close-up of the Chrysler Building (photo by David).

Close-up of the Chrysler Building (photo by David).

Thankfully, we encountered short lines and small crowds. Again, I think this is because it was mid-June and people hadn’t all gone on vacation yet. We ascended to the 86th Floor observatory. I’ll admit to being acrophobic, so I took photos with caution. The sky was clear and you could truly see forever. According to the guides, you can see five states on a clear day – New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut. The views were amazing, and the kids were in awe of all those buildings all around us. As we descended, David and I mentally crossed off going to the Empire State Building from our list of things to do in New York.

Hudson River in the background (photo by David).

I believe that is the East River in the background (photo by David).

Coming around with the view (photo by David).

Coming around with the view (photo by David).

Moving to the left (photo by David).

Moving to the left (photo by David).

Hudson Bay (photo by David).

I believe this is the Hudson River in the background (photo by David).

Inglorious ending to Father’s Day
The only blot on our day was planning our evening around what we thought would be a Golden State Warriors Finals victory and celebration. We bypassed the recommended Katz’s Deli (205 E. Houston, 212.254.2246) on our way home. We walked in, but nobody was in the mood for foot-tall sandwiches that just seemed too much of a good thing. Instead, we grabbed Subway sandwiches – slumming it – back to our apartment. Suffice it to say, the Warriors lost the championship that was theirs to win, and there went my Father’s Day present to David. Not that Isabella cared in the least. We tried to remember that we were still on vacation. By morning, at least for me, I woke up thinking about the day’s adventure before us.

Building close-ups down there.

Building close-ups down there, looking like building blocks.

More close-ups with the Chrysler Building peeking out.

More close-ups with the Chrysler Building peeking out.

The smaller skyscrapers!

The smaller skyscrapers!

Fox on a building on our way home (photo by David).

Fox on a building on our way home (photo by David).

The blooming garden

I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where it was always June.
– L.M. Montgomery, Canadian author, from Anne of the Island

Here it is already, June. School lets out tomorrow for the summer. I’ve gone through week number three of my annual Korematsu Middle School auction bouquet donation. How did this happen? And where did spring go?

It does no good to search for an answer, especially as time hurtles forward. So, I tell myself, just enjoy the burst of color from a smaller blooming garden. I lost a lot of dahlias this season, though I don’t know if El Nino or the years of drought are to blame. I do know that a little puppy is responsible for tearing out several pots of dianthus. But one hopes there is time this summer to replant and nurture.

So here is my parade of bouquets – some for the auction winner, one for a birthday, one for a friend’s open studio (a tradition), and some for a dear friend in my mom’s group who is recovering from cancer surgery. Flowers for life.

A birthday bouquet.

A birthday bouquet.

For the artist: A standing tradition for Tana's open studio - a bottle of red and a late spring bouquet.

For the artist: A standing tradition for Tana’s open studio – a bottle of red and a late spring bouquet.

Tana, flowers, and her beautiful artwork.

Tana, flowers, and her beautiful artwork.

The first Korematsu Middle School auction bouquet of the season on May 20th.

The first Korematsu Middle School auction bouquet of the season on May 20th.

A bouquet, dinner, and snacks for Mimi, who was in the hospital for nine days for two surgeries. Thankful that she is now home and recovering.

A bouquet, dinner, and snacks for Mimi, who was in the hospital for nine days for two surgeries. Thankful that she is now home and recovering.

A Korematsu Middle School auction bouquet for the last weekend in May, Memorial Day Weekend.

A Korematsu Middle School auction bouquet for the last weekend in May, Memorial Day Weekend.

Third bouquet of the season for the Korematsu Middle School auction.

Third bouquet of the season for the Korematsu Middle School auction.

Exquisite closeup of this week's auction bouquet.

Exquisite closeup of this week’s auction bouquet.

Flowers and a visit for Mimi this past weekend. Cherish friendships and time spent with friends.

Flowers and a visit for Mimi this past weekend. Cherish friendships and time spent with friends.

The End of summer: a reflection, a pictorial

August rain: the best of the summer gone, and the new fall not yet born. The odd uneven time.
– Sylvia Plath

On Monday school starts. I need to catch my breath. How is it that summer is over already? After our trip to Italy in June, I was trying to find my easy pace of summer, my groove. It was not to be this year. As soon as we came home we prepared for our traditional Fourth of July visit with my cousin and her husband Tim (aka Timbuktu), which includes the Oakland A’s fireworks game, City of El Cerrito Fourth of July celebration at Cerrito Vista Park, Fourth of July feast, Alameda Flea Market, and lots of science experiments, board games, catching up, and sometimes we sneak in a hike.

Tim, Janet, and me at the Oakland A's fireworks game. Tim took pleasure in entertained us by photo-bombing the group of women in front of us.

Tim, Janet, and me at the Oakland A’s fireworks game. Tim took pleasure in entertaining us by photo-bombing the group of women in the row in front of us.

The A's lost - again - but at least the fireworks were fun!

The A’s lost – again – but at least the fireworks were fun!

We all agreed that this Fourth of July's fireworks show was the best we've seen in four years.

We all agreed that this Fourth of July’s fireworks show was the best we’ve seen in our four-year tradition.

One of the things Janet and I love to do while at the El Cerrito Fourth of July festivities is to buy a necklace from our favorite Himalayan Jewelry guy. And check out other artisan goods. These earrings are by Moon and Leaf.

One of the things Janet and I love to do while at the El Cerrito Fourth of July festivities is to buy a necklace from our favorite Himalayan Jewelry guy. And check out other artisan goods. These earrings are by Moon and Leaf.

Talented jewelry designer and Harding Elementary School mom Kristen Satzman of Moon & Leaf.

Enjoying a conversation with talented jewelry designer and Harding Elementary School mom Kristen Satzman of Moon & Leaf. You can see more of her work at http://kristinsatzman.com/moonandleaf/

Salmon and steak, potatoes and salad, and the fresh corn that Janet and Tim brought up from the Central Valley for our Fourth of July feast.

Salmon and steak, potatoes and salad, and the fresh corn that Janet and Tim brought up from the Central Valley for our Fourth of July feast.

Up bright and early for a Girls' Day at the Alameda Flea Market - our group selfie with the San Francisco skyline in the background.

Up bright and early Sunday morning for a Girls’ Day at the Alameda Flea Market – our group selfie with the San Francisco skyline and Golden Gate Bridge in the background.

Beautiful 1920s French marcasite necklace from Gypsy Road Studio, which happens to match well with the marcasite earrings from Firenze.

Beautiful 1920s French marcasite necklace from Gypsy Road Studio, which happens to match well with the marcasite earrings from Firenze.

In the summertime, Janet and I love looking at lawn art. For old-time San Francisco Giants fans - See the crazy crab.

In the summertime, Janet and I love looking at lawn art. For old-time San Francisco Giants fans – See the crazy crab.

I'm forgetting this Oakland artisan, but I loved the poems and adages burned into various found wood objects. One of my favorites - a poem by Pablo Neruda, one of my favorite poets, whom I studied while at Syracuse University.

I’m forgetting this Oakland artisan, but I loved the poems and adages burned into wood, stone, and other found objects. I immediately gravitated to this poem by Pablo Neruda, one of my favorite poets, whom I studied while at Syracuse University.

Then after they left – such a short visit this time around – we offered our home to a French exchange student for three weeks. All the while, I was trying to edit my manuscript, and then proof and go through the production phase of the book. The month of July, I think I averaged 3-4 hours of sleep. Wait, that’s normal. At any rate, every evening and weekend was filled with reading the manuscript over and over and over again. While trying to entertain our exchange student.

Isabella and I took our exchange student for a day-long walk along the Embarcadero. At Pier 27, we chanced upon a free concert by the San Francisco Symphony - lovely!

On a beautiful Sunday in July, Isabella and I took our exchange student for a day-long walk along the Embarcadero. At Pier 27, we chanced upon a free concert by the San Francisco Symphony – lovely!

Sunday brunch at Butterfly Restaurant at Pier 33. California-Asian fusion and a nice view of the Bay.

Sunday brunch at Butterfly Restaurant at Pier 33. California-Asian fusion and a nice view of the Bay.

We rarely venture to Pier 39, but I forget how spectacular the views can be, so long as you look outward!

We rarely venture to Pier 39, but I forget how spectacular the views can be, so long as you look outward!

The end-of-our-walk view of the San Francisco piers....

The end-of-our-walk view of the San Francisco piers….

And in the midst of our hosting duties, I flew out to Portland for a week for my company’s annual sales meeting in mid-July. Every time I come to Portland, I fall in love all over again. I had to edit/proof in the evenings while there, but I really enjoyed spending time with my colleagues since I only see most of them twice a year.

Downtown Portland - my view from my temporary office at my company's headquarters.

Downtown Portland – my view from my temporary office at my company’s headquarters.

Lunch outside at the The Portland Regency with my colleagues.

Lunch outside at the The Portland Regency with my colleagues.

The courtyard of my boutique hotel - the Portland Harbor Hotel.

The courtyard of my boutique hotel – the Portland Harbor Hotel.

On the menu? Of course.

On the menu? Of course.

Our company took in a Portland Sea Dogs game at Hadlock Fields. The Sea Dawgs are the Red Sox's AA team. They played the farm team of the Yankees. Classic.

Our company took in a Portland Sea Dogs game at Hadlock Fields. The Sea Dawgs are the Red Sox’s AA team. They played the farm team of the Yankees. Classic.

Normally I go to baseball games to watch the game, but I had too much fun catching up with my colleagues. Here, with Eric and Cathleen.

Normally I go to baseball games to watch the game, but I had too much fun catching up with my colleagues. Here, with Eric and Cathleen. And this is after my third hot dog! Yup, I was hungry.

One street down from my hotel, I found a true gelato place - Gorgeous Gelato!

One street down from my hotel, I found a true gelato place – Gorgeous Gelato!

I had to go to one of my favorite shops in downtown Portland - Waterlily.

I had to go to one of my favorite shops in downtown Portland – Waterlily.

The earrings on the left are made by sisters in Thailand. I had gotten a pair by them a few years ago at Waterlily. Thanks for Fay, we walked into Edgecomb Potters on the waterfront. This collective features artisans from around the country. The earrings on the left are made from vintage watch parts. I chose this very Art Deco pair.

The earrings on the right were made by two sisters from Thailand. I had gotten a pair crafted by them a few years ago at Waterlily. Thanks to Fay, we walked into Edgecomb Potters on the waterfront. This collective features artisans from around the country. The earrings on the left are made from vintage watch parts. I chose this very Art Deco pair.

More seafood, please. On the outdoor deck on the waterfront at the Porthole Restaurant and Pub.

More seafood and fresh greens, please. On the outdoor deck on the waterfront at the Porthole Restaurant and Pub.

Dinner at the Flatbread with Jack, Fay, and Mia. One last view.

Dinner at the Flatbread with Jack, Fay, and Mia. One last view.

Upon my return home, it was back to editing and proofing. My publisher Eastwind Books of Berkeley and I were a week late with getting everything to the printer. You would think that a great weight would have been lifted once Harvey, my publisher, said, no more comma deletions; we are done and you can’t touch it anymore. But all that stress over typos, commas, widows and orphan lines still resided in my upper back. One morning in August, I awoke to chest pains and after talking it over with David, we decided to be safe and head to the ER. Thankfully, at 7am on a Thursday, I was the only one who walked into the ER waiting room. No risk factors. All tests came back negative. I went home in a record two hours and yes, came back with peace of mind and stern warnings from the ER doctor and my NP and physical therapist that I need more hours of sleep. Well, okay.

The day of my ER visit, the kids, on their own initiative, made dinner and a wine cake for me. In fact, Isabella made my lunches on the weekends while I was hunched over my laptop editing. Yes, I am filled with gratitude.

The day of my ER visit, the kids, on their own initiative, made dinner and a wine cake for me. In fact, Isabella made my lunches on the weekends while I was hunched over my laptop editing. Yes, I am filled with gratitude.

After the production process, however, I dove into the marketing/promotion tasks that need to be done. So I’m immersed in that right now. Press releases. Press release list upon list upon list. Creation of postcards and posters. Approval of ads. FB author page. Twitter handle (gulp). Author website. Reaching out to academics in labor, history, Asian-American disciplines with a little help from a history professor at the University of Maryland. Scheduling reading events. Networking. It’s all exhilarating, empowering, and validating! But hard to do when you have to do it all after hours.

My friend Wendy Johnson and I attended the Stand Up for Books Comedy Night, a fundraiser for my publisher's bookstore, Eastwind Books of Berkeley (landlord raised the rent - boo-hiss) at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center.

My friend Wendy Johnson and I attended the Stand Up for Books Comedy Night, a fundraiser for my publisher’s bookstore, Eastwind Books of Berkeley (landlord raised the rent – boo-hiss) at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center. And you didn’t have to be Asian-American to appreciate the jokes, I think….

Yup, I dragged David to the Jackson Browne concert at the Greek Theatre in August. I bribed him with beer while I had wine. The last time we were at the Greek Theatre? Twenty years ago when we saw the Counting Crows with our friends John (and best man) and Tracy!

Yup, I dragged David to the Jackson Browne concert at the Greek Theatre in August. I bribed him with beer while I had wine. The last time we were at the Greek Theatre? Twenty years ago when we saw the Counting Crows with our friends John (and best man) and Tracy!

I was thrilled when Jackson Browne introduced his heartbreaking song Sky Blue & Black by saying that it was one of his favorite songs. Me too!

I was thrilled when Jackson Browne introduced his heartbreaking song Sky Blue & Black by saying that it was one of his favorite songs. Me too! His latest CD is very political, a call to environmentalism. The title song, Standing in the Breach, is about rebulding a school in Port-au-Prince in Haiti after their devastating earthquake. Browne was very proud to be a part of this school, which he says educates 2,500 students every year for free. Yup, respect him in bunches.

We managed to have some fun, though. But now school is staring me in the face. Time to be co-chair of the high school’s Investing in Academic Excellence. Lunafest 2015-2016 season will be commencing soon. Work will start getting busier. And my book comes out September 4th, with readings and events, and more marketing and promotions.

We are winding down with our season tickets for the very painful Oakland A's season. A weeknight game with the Dodgers' Kershaw on the mound versus another pitcher called up from the minors. We went. When our hapless bullpen blew a 1-1 tie in the top of the 8th, we hesitated but still stayed. First walk-off win, 5-4, in 10 innings. Nice way to end the summer - Country Breakfast (aka Mr. Double Play) getting a pie and Gatorade. My first win since Opening Day. I know, pathetic. Back to the right-field bleachers next year! Still love the summer classic.

We are winding down with our season tickets for the very painful Oakland A’s season. A weeknight game with the Dodgers’ Kershaw on the mound versus another pitcher called up from the minors. We went with great trepidation. When our hapless bullpen blew a 1-1 tie in the top of the 8th, a common occurrence this year, we hesitated but still stayed. We were rewarded: First walk-off win, 5-4, in 10 innings. Nice way to end the summer – Country Breakfast (aka Mr. Double Play) getting a pie and Gatorade. My first win since Opening Day. I know, pathetic. Back to the right-field bleachers next year! Still love the summer classic.

But would I want it any other way? Heck no. But I will miss this summer. What a memorable time we had.

The last gasp from the garden. Is this truly the last bouquet of August, of summer?

The last gasp from the garden. Is this truly the last bouquet of August, of summer?