Thursday, June 30, 2011



I now had to busy myself with getting ready to go back to the States: packing large items for shipment (the rug, sheets, a box of books and souvenirs), straightening up the apartment, and settling my accounts. For the final appartamento accounting when Madame Zia spoke in Italian, I sort of understood. We seemed to settle OK. She paid me half the cost of the palm, which was a good deal for both of us. Ed had sent a shopping list via a neat Firenze postcard I had not seen: a particular tee-shirt, a puppet he had seen and train books for his dad. And I bought a delightful furry mouse for Liza. I found an 8mm film of Firenze and a book in color of the 1966 flood.

With only a few days left, I wanted to see some of the villas in the hills. I enlisted Alessandro, my architecture student friend, to help me choose which one to see. We took a bus out about five miles to the Villa Medicea La Petraia.

It was constructed in 1575 for one of the Medici grand-dukes. Victor Emmanuel II rebuilt it in the 19th Century when he was king, and it became his favorite Florentine residence. None of the Medici influence still exists on the inside, but it had enormous, elaborate, period rooms.
A gaming room was most remarkable for its size and decoration. The courtyard had been enclosed and decorated with huge chandeliers and very colorful murals.

Alessandro invited me to have dinner at his apartment. What a pleasant idea. He fixed a good meal in his rather bleak studenti abode. It was very special having my last dinner in Firenze in a Florentine's home.

Before lunch the next day, I was sitting, crowd-watching at the Rivoire
having a Granita de Cafe (sweet coffee in crushed ice with whipped cream and coffee beans on top), reading a letter from Arnette. Her lovely letter thanked me again for helping make Italy so special. She had enclosed clippings of her daughter Jenny's reviews in London. Evidently, she’s quite good; Baryshnikov liked her. She wants me to meet her family.

On my way for a Florentine pizza, I made a detour to the New Market to pet the Porcellino

  ---to Ensure My Return to Firenze.

I again returned to the Rivoire for a last sightsee and crowd-watch. I had very mixed feelings: sad to be leaving, glad to be going home, but not looking forward to the trip of fourteen hours on trains and planes. I sat there thinking about all the things that made my adventure possible: Ed's taking care of everything at home, my having a good job, having a nice family, and my tenaciousness.

I walked to the train station to prolong my time in Firenze, luckily my suitcase had wheels. I found out that my train had no dining car, so I slipped back into the station and got a nice box lunch for dinner: chicken, fruit and vino rosso. I had booked a 2nd class sleeper to Paris (3 beds in a compartment). I'd never been on a sleeper before. Luckily, no one else was in my compartment, so I asked the steward to pull out my bed at around 8:30. He wanted me to use the bottom bunk, but I insisted on the middle one so I could see out. He said that I wouldn't be able to see out because the pillow was on the wrong end. I still insisted. As soon as he left, I got undressed, remade the bed with the pillow at the window and climbed up. What a view! I opened the top window for an even clearer view. A gathering storm provided a dramatic backdrop for the villages and mountains. I was so excited that I couldn't go to sleep until two in the morning. Dawn awoke me. It was beautiful—rolling hills in a mist. I looked and dozed; dozed and looked. Finally, I awoke with a start to find the train in the station at Dijon, with people milling around right outside my window. I pulled down the shade, got dressed and headed for the cafe car that had been added in France. I stayed for an hour watching the landscape whiz by and watching my fellow passengers. I love travelling by train.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

CAR CRAZY SAGA -My Continental(s)- 9:


To know the background of the Mark II, you really need to go back to Edsel Ford (son of Henry Ford) and the thirties. After coming back from a European vacation, he naturally had had an eye on the cars being developed there. He had Ford Motor Company (FoMoCo) make him a one-off (one-of-a-kind) car modeled after the European cars. (You can do this if your family owns the company and you are the president!) It had a long hood, small greenhouse and a short deck with the spare tire at the back. Lovely to look at! 

After having it delivered to his Palm Beach winter home, so many people admired it and said they wanted one, FoMoCo decided on production of Edsel's car. Nineteen-forty and forty-one saw two models of Edsel's 'Continental', under first the 'Lincoln-Zephyr Continental' banner, then the 'Lincoln Continental' badge.

The years between 1942 and 1948 saw a different 'Lincoln Continental' (except for wartime, of course).

In the early fifties, FoMoCo was getting requests for another Continental. Based on those requests, they decided to investigate the idea of a new Continental. William Clay Ford (son of Edsel) headed Special Products Operations for its development. The charge was simple but daunting: "Create the most luxurious, carefully crafted production car in the land—literally an American Rolls-Royce, on a cost-no-object basis".

In 1953, they asked five nationally renowned design firms to submit designs, including the FoMoCo team. Their entries were judged anonymously by the Ford board. Happily, the Ford team won. The designer in charge was John Reinhart. He took inspiration from the original design of Edsel's Continental. A 'modern formal' version resulted with the same basic tenets of the long hood, small greenhouse and short deck with spare tire, but he brought the car into the modern vernacular—stunningly! There are interesting stories about the design process and John himself.

After exhaustive design and engineering, the Continental Mark II was born, following the original clay mock-up without any design changes! To produce the Mark II, the Special Products Operations became the Continental Division—not under the Lincoln banner but a distinct division.

Stories abound about the marketing and public reaction. It was announced on October 16, 1954, at the national LincolnContinentalOwnersClub meeting by William Clay Ford himself. The car was unveiled at the Paris Auto Show on October 6, 1955. 

Debuts were held in major cities. One dealer had to hide in his building overnight because the crowds got so whopping. Premiums were paid for the car. Each one was shipped in a lamb's wool wrapper.

                       Next, Further Development.

Monday, June 27, 2011


Bridgeville, Delaware

What a pleasant surprise!

Our usual Friday Night Group didn't meet. So, I organized an ad hoc trip to Bridgeville (30 minutes away) to go to the famous Jimmy's Grille. I had never been there but had heard only good things. They cater the annual Milton Historical Society's dinner and the food is always very good.

When the 7 of us got there, we found out it was VERY popular and crowded. We first saw a case of the famous cakes and pies.

We were seated quickly though and appraised the menu.
1/4 of the menu.

And found the prices very reasonable for the down-home cooking.
Photo by Ron Tipton.

When the food came we were bowled over! The portions were huge and delicious I might add. We all had a great meal.
It was a lot of fun, too. I had chicken stuffed with dressing (delicious), collards and stewed tomatoes with pecan-cream pie! I also bought a whole, huge coconut cream pie to take home.

I sure will add this restaurant to my list of favorite Delaware beaches restaurants.

Saturday, June 25, 2011



Siena is a wonderful medieval city. Except for the dark red-orange tile roofs, the entire hill town is that stone color called in English, 'burnt sienna'. 
They’ve eliminated cars from the entire central core (about 40 square blocks), making walking a pleasure. The center of town is dominated by a fantastic fan shaped piazza and the delightful city hall. I counted eleven streets entering the Piazza del Campo

Yearly, the renowned Palio (horse race) is held there. 
I did not know it before I travelled to Siena, but the very day I visited, the entire piazza was being set up for the annual race. The preparation was exciting. There were many people laboring to set up the event: erecting bleachers, reorganizing the outdoor restaurants, establishing souvenir stands, and already selling flags of the various Palio competitors and food from carts. They busily were covering the entire piazza with dirt for the event. I had lunch at a ristorante that had temporarily set up tables and chairs, right on the dirt track. While I was sitting there, waiting for my pasta and Insalata Caprese, I thought to myself, this chair sure is low, when it became lower! Finally, it collapsed into the dirt. My waiter came rushing up to help me, quite embarrassed. It was very funny, and I was not hurt.

Walking back to the train station, I stopped at a sweets shop. Spotting an unusual looking large cake-like shape, I ordered a few slices. Panicifio de Sienese turned out to be a unique Sienese treat, a dense confection made of nuts, citron, raisins and flour with a thick layer of marzipan on top—delicious. Another nice day trip. (I now wish I had taken more side trips.)

Soon after moving to Firenze, I had seen some cats in the courtyard beneath my window. Even before I went to Venezia, I had noticed a particular black feral cat that seemed particularly scared and hungry. After returning from Siena, I began feeding it by dropping scraps from my window. He soon came to the window when l called, 'Kitty'. One day, while walking home from shopping, I detoured into the courtyard and called his new name. He appeared, but would not come any closer. It took several visits for me to get him to approach me. But I never got beyond a quick pet.

I called Bill Murphy. He seemed glad to hear from me, but sounded rather down. Bill told me that Bruce Goff had just died. 
Price House, Bartlesville, OK.
Bavenger House, Norman, OK. The bedrooms are hanging pods in a jungle.
Bruce was an Oklahoma architect, world renowned for his creativity. Bill had studied with him at the University of Oklahoma. And Bill worked for him in Frank Lloyd Wright's Price Tower in Bartlesville, OK. I said it just shows that we should enjoy life, while we can. He said he thought it was super that I was living in Italy doing just that!

One afternoon I was sitting at my usual spot at the Rivoire, having my fragole con vino rosso when a young American woman at a table adjacent to mine said, "You seem to be settled-in here." (I guess she had heard me order my strawberries in Italiano!) "What sights are important to see?" she asked. Well, she could have inquired about anything else, and it would have been a short reply. I could see she was truly interested for she was laden down with books, cameras and tourist guides. I gave her a long dissertation on what the critical stages were in Florentine architecture, art and history, and explained that I had been living in Firenze for four months. I was listing for her, in order of importance, the various sights and their fine points (such as the Ufftzi's prominence and its morning hours) when I asked how long she had to see Firenze. She replied, "Oh, I have all afternoon!"

I, in turn, replied bemused, "Just sit here, have a red wine and watch the people." She evidently thought seeing closed museums was more important than soaking in the atmosphere, so off she went.

I went back to the Piazzale Michelangelo trattoria for a visit to my black and white domesticated cat friend. She was there all right, but this time she would have little to do with me. Just fickle, I suspect. Oh, do I miss my wonderful Abyssinian cat, Liza, back in Washington.

Next, Returning Home.

Friday, June 24, 2011


Dewey Beach, Delaware

Tuesday, Mary Ann, Deo, Ted and I went to this glorious restaurant—one of my absolute favorites.

Mary Ann was treating me because I have helped her learn the iPad 2! And what fun that has been, but Mary Ann wanted to do something special for me and that she did.

VENUS ON THE HALF SHELL is such a surprise. First of all, being in Dewey Beach is surprising because it's known only for its honky-tonk tourist places. But mainly because it's so special: It's in a large building right on Rehoboth Bay. It fully opens up facing the bay. The interior is tiered so as to afford good views and one can dine ON THE SAND on the outside beach! What a treat—we went at the beginning of the sunset!

Upon entering, Mary Ann gasped at the lovely Indian-inspired decoration and the view.

She had picked out the place but had never been there before. Nor had Deo. I've been there five times and it's one of my most-liked Delaware beaches restaurants.

Our delightful waiter seated us right on the beach at the edge of the water with the best view. The was a coolish breeze and the sun was setting—idyllic.

As I was sipping my Negroni, lively conversation ensued.

Mary Ann and I had a delicious medallion of beef, so tender one didn't need a steak knife. Ted and Deo had seafood. The piece d'resistance was the Eggplant Tower appetizer: tall, with crispy fried eggplant under a cheesy, red sauce. We all tasted and enjoyed that. Ted and I each had the Key Lime dessert made with white chocolate.

To cap it off, the maitre d' had a coin toss that Mary Ann won, which gave her her entree FREE!


Wednesday, June 22, 2011



A dissertation: I know some people are having a hard time with Tom's actions. I found his jumping on Oprah's couch fun. It showed his true excitement about Katie. His anti-psychology rants, however, were problematic. Especially the attack on Brooke Shields, which was uncalled for. It seems to me that it all stems from his belief in Scientology—good grief! He should keep that private.

Continuing with his films. We travel to some of his best and some of his worst. At this point in his life he's realizing the value of having good directors and fellow actors. He chooses them wisely! to wit: Director Martin Scorsese and Paul Newman for "THE COLOR OF MONEY." He plays a young, Italian pool hustler.

What I consider this to be his worst film, but still enjoyable is "COCKTAIL."

And now, one of his best films, considered by critics still to be a superb film, "RAIN MAN," with Dustin Hoffman, who won the Oscar "Best Actor" award for his role. And the film won "BEST PICTURE!" Tom won the People's Choice! award for Favorite Actor.

I began collecting many objects regarding Tom about this time in his career. Among them photos (stills from films, studio shots, portraits and candids—many hundreds) and a digital copy of ALL films (32 so far)! All the pictures in this entire Saga are from my collection!

Off of eBay, I got an actual 1981 cap that was given out to the crew of the film "Top Gun!"
I wear it periodically but only for very special occasions.

Now, we have "BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY," which I consider probably his best role. He was nominated for an Oscar for this one! And he won the Golden Globe. He portrayed Ron Kovic, a true story about a disillusioned Viet Nam veteran. He was 27.

Next, NICOLE KIDMAN comes on the scene and BRAD PITT.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011



Sunday evening I had five people over for cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. They are among my very best friends: Aurelio, Drew, Jen, Marilyn and Ted. Negronis were served which though exotic were a hit: 1/3 DogFish Head Gin, 1/3 Campari and 1/3 Sweet Vermouth with a slice of Orange.
We all sat around for an hour of lively discussion and revelry. Memphis, my cat, was especially lively which intrigued everyone.

Then I took everyone out to the Broadkill Boathouse for dinner. We walked! (It's about three blocks from my house.) Along the way we had fun sightseeing and chatting:
We stopped at the John Milton statue. (Placed there in commemoration of his being the town's namesake!)
Walking beside the Broadkill River, we all remarked about how lovely and neat the waterfront is—a surprise to some.

Dinner was great fun. We sat outside—it was perfect. EVERYONE enjoyed their food. 

The waitpeople were a hoot. The Boathouse is a GREAT addition to Milton's restaurant fare.


Sunday, June 19, 2011



My friend, Bill, and his brother, Bobby, called me and wanted to go to dinner last night. It would be good to see them. While Bill lives in DC, he just got a condo in Rehoboth! I suggested the Cosmopolitan Grill as I've been eager to try it. It's in the old Mano's space on Wilmington Avenue.

Entering was a disappointment: sterile, bare tables, no customers.

The waiter was excellent but the food left me despondent. I had Green Tomato Caprese Salad and Veal Marsala. Neither was exceptional AND expensive.

We left dissatisfied. Bobby didn't even want to leave a tip! It was a good visit though.

I'll not return.

Only saving grace was an ice cream cone on the fun Boardwalk.

Saturday, June 18, 2011



I had stayed in Venezia for a few extra days to really soak it up and to let 'steep' the idea of really being there. While riding the train back to Firenze, I thought about the entire course. I was sad that the course had ended, but was happy that I had enrolled in it; glad to have seen all the sights we did, and met all those very neat people. But also, I was looking forward to returning to Firenze for a welcome respite.

My days now, while very nice, seemed to just float along. I found myself getting lethargic. I guess the excitement of the course and the wonderful fullness of my friends, left me feeling deserted. After about a week of this, I decided that I needed to get out of the doldrums. The next day, I took the train to Pisa.

Seeing the Leaning Tower of Pisa for the first time was a thrill. 
It is tilted at a very raucous angle—some say because of the poor soil-bearing conditions, others, because the architect wanted to show his skill. I climbed about three-quarters of the way up the tower but became dizzy because the stairs were at such an angle. The original upward spiral stairway had become alternately going up at a very steep angle and going slightly down on the other side of the tower. Most disconcerting!

Pisa has the feeling of a once important city from which life has departed. Its splendid buildings recall that past age in the 11th Century when Pisa rivaled Genoa and Venezia for world power, but its current flavor is very provincial.

At the cathedral, people who wore shorts or women not wearing a head covering were not allowed inside! 
Many modern tourists were rejected. I got a kick out of standing there for a few minutes watching the surprised look on their faces. I soon found an outdoor trattoria on the edge of the piazza of the cathedral and remember thinking that if the tower fell down at that very moment, I'd be dead. But I stayed several hours figuring that if it had stayed up for eight hundred years, it would surely stay up a little while longer.

  ---Pisa was a Tonic.

The next day, I felt new vigor. I planned a trip to Siena for a week later. I got into my reading again; I picked up various books on Italy, but especially on Firenze.

On the evening of August the 11th, there was a band concert in the Piazza della Signoria to celebrate the 38th anniversary of the Allies' liberation of Firenze. The program consisted of songs from America, England and France. It was attended only by old people. The young people didn't seem to understand or care what the Allies did for Italy. Humans have such a short-lived historical memory.

For a different afternoon, I went to the Piazzale Michelangelo to have coffee and enjoy the view. 
As I was sitting there reading about historical Florentine travelers, a black and white cat moseyed by. She enjoyed my petting, so I picked her up. She and I loved it; she stretched and rubbed and finally curled-up and slept on my lap for twenty minutes—instant friends! Two days later I went again and again she slept on my lap!

Next, Another Side Trip.