Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Surrealism in Chicago

A marvelous new exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art links Surrealism to Chicago with 100
works by iconic artists such as Rene Magritte, Matta, Max Ernst, Balthus, Leonora Carrington, and Dorothea Tanning, as well as Chicago-based artists Jim Nutt, Leon Golub, and Christina Ramberg. Pieces by international Surrealist-inspired artists such as Mark Grotjahn, Wangechi Mutu, Jeff Koons, and Cindy Sherman are also represented here.

I spent two hours immersed in these otherworldly images, thinking about life in other realms, symbols, and animal totems. I left in a rather dream-like state, one which was quickly dispelled once I joined the pedestrian shoppers along Michigan Avenue, pursuing very different, and decidedly more materialistic, dreams. Kudos to MCA curator Lynne Warren for organizing this remarkable show. Surrealism: A Conjured Life runs from November 21, 2015 - June 5, 2016. You might see me there again.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Coffee with Patti

"It's not so easy writing about nothing." So begins Patti Smith's haunting, melancholy memoir, M Train. It's easy to feel as though you are swimming through her words, with simultaneous warm and cold currents, alternating between joy and sadness. This book put me into a dreamy, trance-like state that I've only ever gotten from reading W. G. Sebald. In any case, it certainly did not feel like nothing to me.

I kept wishing I had run into Patti at one of the cafes she frequented. [When I lived in New York, this was certainly within the realm of the possible; I often saw famous people.] I wished I could have sat down with her at the now-closed Cafe 'Ina or at Caffe Dante. However, I would not have been able to match her cup for cup of the Joe she seemingly drinks by the gallons (!), and I'm pretty sure that if I had seen her, I would have left her to her solitude. But man, what a conversation I had with her in my head. For one thing, I would have loved to discuss the importance of photographing totemic objects, e.g. Virginia Woolf's cane, Roberto Bolano's chair, and her own table and chair at Cafe 'Ina.

Perhaps I'll do a Patti Smith road trip, following in her pilgrimage footsteps to the sites of her beloved writers and other artists. Starting in NYC, then moving to Veracruz (a city William Burroughs told her produced the best coffee in the world) and perhaps Mexico City, then Berlin to Cafe Pasternak, and on to Zak's place on Rockaway Beach (before Hurricane Sandy swallowed it up in 2012). Then to London (where I wouldn't necessarily binge on detective dramas as she did, though I understand the impulse), Tokyo, Detroit, Los Angeles, Tangier, Buenos Aires. What a trip that would be, coffee or not! 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Appreciating Chicago Architecture

After a meeting in the historic Rookery yesterday, I visited the Chicago Cultural Center (a magnificent space, site of the original Chicago Public Library and home to the world's largest Tiffany dome), one of the participating venues participating in the Chicago Architecture Biennial (October 3, 2015 - January 3, 2016).  Here were some of the highlights for me: "Architecture is Everywhere," by Son Fujimoto Architects (Tokyo); "Indo Pacific Atlas," by University of Technology Sydney academics and students; All(Zone)/Bangkok's "Light House: The Art of Living Lightly" (in which a light-as-air dwelling installed in an abandoned parking garage is shown being lived in - not as terrifying as it sounds); Amanda Williams' brightly-painted, melancholic South Side structures in her work, "Color(ed" Theory";  Polis Station, Chicago architect Jeanne Gang's vision for a more community-immersed police station; and from Milan, Italy, "The Flying Gardeners" Bosco Verticale.

I walked north on Michigan Avenue, passing many familiar Art Deco structures (the Carbide and Carbon Building and the recently-renovated 333 North Michigan Building), then crossed the Chicago River, passing the Wrigley Building and the Tribune Tower (recently put up for sale!). The latter's facade contains embedded stones from structures around the world and I never fail to find a new one I missed on previous viewings.

On my walk, I struck up a conversation with a D.C.-based consultant in town for a conference. He told me that Chicago seemed different now than in 2005, when he last visited - specifically that he noticed more homeless people and that the character of the city had changed. The consultant continued that D.C. (a city I lived in off and on for seven years) had also changed. We talked about what it was that defined a city - was it the people, the buildings, or some combination?

My penultimate destination was the Museum of Contemporary Art, a decidedly modern building compared to those I mentioned above, but another venue participating in the Architecture Biennial. More compelling for me than the related exhibitions, however, was the music that lured me to the 3rd floor. From September 2015 to June 16, the MCA is hosting the contemporary classical ensemble, eighth blackbird. I listened to a rehearsal and observed how they interacted and responded to each other.

Finally, I headed to one of my favorite places - The Fine Arts Building - to inquire about possible residential space. Since 1898, the building has rented studios and work spaces to musicians, dancers, and visual artists. At the management office, I was told that at that very moment, they were in discussions about the feasibility of converting some of the commercial spaces into living quarters. I hope they do. It is one thing to walk by all these buildings for most of your life; living in one would be another thing altogether.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Expo Chicago 2015

Back when I was living in New York City, I attended many art fairs - Art Basel/Miami, The Armory Shows, NADA, New York Art Book Fair and Governors Island Art Fair (I volunteered at the latter two), Scope, Pulse, The Affordable Art Fair, to name just some. Apart from the venue locations and parameters, the fairs tended to all have the same bumpy floors covered with thin material, were either overheated or too cold, with lots of people and lots of art that was sometimes intriguing, sometimes not. They often ended up being overwhelming.

In the intervening years, I've visited many museums and galleries in Berlin and elsewhere in Europe and the States, but it had been awhile since I'd been to an art fair. This past Sunday, I was expecting more or less what I had experienced in previous years. Navy Pier was a good setting for Expo Chicago; it was calmer, not as frenzied as venues I'd been to before. I particularly enjoyed the chance to chat with Berlin, NYC, Chicago, London, and Shanghai dealers I'd either met before when I lived in those cities or had heard about and wanted to meet.

I spoke with Candice Madey, owner of the New York gallery On Stellar Rays, who told me that she had moved from her original space on Orchard Street to a location on the Bowery. The whole Lower East Side has changed enormously in the last 5-10 years and smaller galleries are often forced to relocate due to rising costs.We talked about Georgia Sagri, an artist that a friend and I saw perform at Candice's gallery back in 2009, when it first opened. At Expo Chicago, Candice introduced me to and showed me the work of  JJ Peet, one of her current artists whose video compilation of  his own work - shot as stills - was rather captivating.

Kavi Gupta's Berlin gallery has closed, due mainly to rent increases in the German capital, but he still maintains two spaces in Chicago on Washington Boulevard and on Elizabeth Street. Some of the artists he represents include Claire Sherman (a personal favorite), Roxy Paine, Sterling Ruby and Angel Otero. We wondered where the next "art city" would be.

Small art works seemed to be a theme at many of the galleries I saw. At Koenig and Clinton, Peter Dreher's paintings of glasses varied slightly from one another and reminded me a great deal of Giorgio Morandi's loving attention to the variations in light and form as they touch objects. I quite liked Chinese artist Wang Yuping's small representations of everyday items. The Pavel Zoubok booth drew me in with delicate works by Joe Brainard, Eric Rhein and Laurie Frick.

At London's White Cube gallery booth, I was drawn to a small gouache on paper by Tracey Emin, Grotto III, part of a larger body of 2014 work entitled The Last Great Adventure is You. It was delicate, dainty, not words I'd ordinarily use to describe this erstwhile enfant terrible YBA. Speaking of London galleries at the fair, I was happy to talk with representatives of Whitechapel Gallery, one of my favorite places in London.

The Zen calm of the artwork in MA2 Gallery's booth and Russian artist Asya Resnikov's piece entitled Packing for Delivery: Boy at Nancy Hoffman Gallery were a pleasant conclusion to the day; instead of feeling ambushed by art and its related crowds, I felt invigorated and inspired by what I saw.





Saturday, August 29, 2015

Get-Under-Your-Skin Books

Here are nine "Get-Under-Your-Skin" books: The Story of My Teeth; Hopscotch; The Illogic of Kassel (these three written by Spanish-speaking authors - all deal with art, philosophy, and life); The Story of the Lost ChildBallad of the Black and Blue Mind; Fifteen Dogs; The Incarnations; The Casualties, and Fortune Smiles. Read them and see if you agree.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

N is for Nature

I'm a walker. The art of slow travel, like slow food (or slow anything for that matter), allows me to savor the smallest details of life, stop to investigate, ask questions, engage on a more intimate level with the physical world, whether animal, vegetable, or mineral. I've done regular 4-5 mile daily walks wherever I've found myself in the world, e.g. New York City (here and here), and Berlin (herehere, and here. In the past handful of years, this has meant (with the exception of stints in China and in Europe) walking (interspersed with 13-mile bike rides) in Chicago-area forest preserves.

In tandem with these walks and rides, I've become more interested in reading about the natural world. In particular, I've enjoyed the following books which have served to simultaneously narrow and broaden my focus as I make my way through the woods either on foot or on wheels: A Philosophy of Walking; Wild; Limber; H is for Hawk; The Wallcreeper; At Hawthorn Time; Fifteen Dogs; and The Lost Art of Reading Nature's Signs.

I haven't yet learned to tell time by the moon or stars (in fact, this may never be within my grasp), nor can I determine what kind of soil I'm walking on or where a glacier may have passed, but I have learned to identify a variety of wildflowers and trees, birds and other fauna; sometimes, I can even distinguish among individual birds of the same species by the variations in their song as I move along.

I have enjoyed tuning in to what the natural world is trying to tell me; the result is that mankind's often-unpleasant sights and sounds recede mercifully into the background, allowing my senses to recharge.







Friday, June 19, 2015

Identity Theft

"Or is the true self neither this nor that, neither here nor there, but something so varied and wandering that it is only when we give the rein to its wishes and let it take its way unimpeded that we are indeed ourselves?"   ---Virginia Woolf, from her 1930 essay "Street Haunting: A London Adventure"

I got a letter from the Office of Personnel Management the other day. It stated that my personal information “may have been exposed as a result of a recent cyber security attack.” OPM “…regret[ted] the incident” and offered a credit monitoring service and substantial identity theft insurance.

What is identity? How is it determined and who determines it? What exactly is it we wish to protect if it comes under siege? Our cash? Do identity thieves hope to gain something other than money? Would it be such a bad thing to get another identity?

Is your identity based on race/genetics? Rachel Dolezal – a woman who has identified as black, though her parents claim she is white/Caucasian – was the subject of a recent article by James M. Calcagno, a professor of biological anthropology at Loyola University Chicago. Professor Calcagno argues that “genetic races do not exist and race is purely a cultural construct.” He added that if one were to go back far enough, “…everyone on the planet is African-something” because all human beings have ties to that continent. Take a look at Nell Zink's latest novel, Mislaid.

What about gender? Caitlyn, (fka Bruce) Jenner is a man who says he has identified as a woman for most of his life, but has only recently begun to appear physically as a woman. Why the change now and not before?

Can your identity be reduced to a collection of numbers - social security, PIN, bank accounts, credit cards? Governmental entities think so.

Or maybe biology? In a June 2015 Harper's article entitled "Shooting Down Man the Hunter," Rebecca Solnit writes that "...we are not necessarily what we once were." Our identities can and do change constantly. Alexandra Fuller says in her book, Leaving Before the Rains Come, that "...identity is fluid...it is easily corruptible."

Maybe it’s your chosen career/job/profession that determines your identity, and you decide that it will identify you. Here in the U.S., it has long been the case that one of the first things someone asks about is your profession. In other parts of the world, this topic may eventually come up, but only after, for example, “where are you from?” and other questions s related to country-specific information (yet another identifying factor). 

Most of the jobs in my professional life can more or less fit into the fields of sales, teaching, law, diplomacy, and the arts, though there's a category I'd call "miscellaneous" that would include wrangling animals on a farm in Andalusia. Although I have enjoyed many of those jobs, I hardly ever derived my identity from any one of them. Yet that is what people in the U.S. tend to do, often to the exclusion of all other possible identifying features, e.g. favorite books, films, food, sports.

Is your identity your name? At the very end of The Dream Lover, Elizabeth Berg imagines the writer George Sand (born Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin), contemplating her controversial life, one filled with triumphs and tragedies, a life during which she continually searched for answers to questions about the true nature of love, spirituality, politics and identity. She wonders what it was all for, the endless questions about why she did this or that, who or what she was. “In the end,” Sand says, “there is but one answer to every question, whether it is spit at me or made as gentlest inquiry: I was I.” I prefer this categorization.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Location, Location, Location

Ten years ago, I was living in a Rosslyn, Virginia hotel in preparation for my departure to Iraq. I had recently returned to the DC area after two years in India and was in these temporary quarters for about six months. During this time, I was a member of Gold's Gym and regularly parked in the adjacent covered lot. Later that summer, journalist Bob Woodward revealed the identity of Deep Throat, his source for the critical information about the Watergate break-in which led to then-President Richard Nixon's resignation. Woodward also stated that the two had met clandestinely in that same parking lot. [A 2014 article stated that this garage will be torn down to make way for residential buildings.] Unaware of this scintillating connection at the time, to me the garage was just a garage; not until the events that took place there become known did the rather ordinary lot become extraordinary.

I thought about this because last week, I re-watched All the President's Men, the film based on the Woodward book. And it got me thinking about locations - movie locations in particular - and how critical they are to the overall mood of a film.

In a previous post, I wrote about my trip to Poland one year ago and briefly mentioned discovering some of the filming locations (in Warsaw) of several episodes of Krzysztof Kieslowski's The Decalogue. It was kind of a breathtaking rush to stumble onto these places. [By the way, I recently learned that The Criterion Collection is working on its version of The Decalogue (wonderful news), and that NBC is planning its own version to be set in Boston (not as wonderful, but I'm sure my curiosity will get the better of me and I'll watch.)]

Not long ago, I watched the three films in Roberto Rossellini's War Trilogy: Rome Open City, Paisan, and Germany Year Zero. I was moved by all three, but particularly by the latter which was filmed on location in 1947 in the midst of Berlin's World War II rubbly aftermath. This Berlin in no way resembled the one I knew when I lived there in 2010. Wim Wender's Wings of Desire, filmed 40 years after Germany Year Zero, showed Berlin in a similar (though much-rebuilt) otherworldly apocalyptic state of despair. I found quite a few of these locations five years ago, all but the Wall of course. The most recent movies to be filmed in Berlin were Run, Lola, Run (1998), and The Lives of Others (released in 2006, though set in the 1980s). I am waiting for a contemporary cinematic look at Berlin, one that will at last offset the heavy melancholy of its history I found around every corner.

Does the earth remember? While photographing Civil War battlefields, photographer Sally Mann asks this question in her wild and lovely memoir, Hold Still. Well, I say it does.


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Monks, Dandies and Quaintrelles

I recently saw Monk With a Camera: The Life and Journey of Nicholas Vreeland, a documentary about a man born to privilege, and immersed in fashion and photography from a young age as a grandson of Vogue and Harper's Bazaar editor, Diana Vreeland. Nicky, as he was called, was known as a dandy who dressed well and appreciated the finer things in life. He gradually turned away from this life and became a Tibetan Buddhist monk with an abbey of his own and close friendships with The 14th Dalai Lama and Richard Gere.

Before meeting a friend for lunch the other day, I visited Columbia College's Museum of Contemporary Photography to see Dandy Lion: (Re) Articulating Black Masculine Identity. It was a well-done, thought-provoking group show. It made me ask if there was such a thing as a female dandy and the answer is yes. According to a recent New York article, female dandies, also known as quaintrelles, are "...wom[e]n who emphasize a life of passion expressed through personal style, leisurely pastimes, charm, and cultivation of life's pleasures." Some notable quaintrelles of the past include Coco Chanel and Marlene Dietrich. I would include Audrey and Katherine Hepburn.

Over lunch, my friend and I identified more contemporary examples. We came up with the following: Lady Gaga, Kate Middleton, Kate Moss, Diane Kruger, Diana Spencer, Ines de La Fressange, and Chloe Sevigny. Some of these women do the cross-dressing thing and others stay feminine, chic. Both groups have a keen eye for detail and express themselves with style.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Lucy

I don't often see films in theaters; for a number of reasons, I prefer to watch them on DVD. Here's why:

First of all, the extras (e.g. interviews with the director and cast, behind-the-scenes stuff, B-roll footage, etc.), which alone are worth waiting the several weeks or months to see the film. Another benefit is that I get to see thousands (about 10,000 at this point) of films for free, courtesy of local libraries. Thank you. There's also the option of pausing and backtracking if I missed a critical piece of dialogue or action. Let's not forget the total immersion into the film, the silence, and the transporting possibilities often absent when surrounded by others who may or may not be there with the same level of commitment as you.

So, Lucy. I didn't once check the timer on my remote to see how much longer there was to go in this 89-minute Luc Besson film from last year. You might laugh, but that's pretty great thing in my book. In contrast, The Immigrant, The Rewrite, and The Horseman had me pushing that button numerous times. The problems were a terribly-cliched story, weak or repellent characters with no redeeming facets, and/or an over-dependence on bad music to prod emotional reactions from the audience. I find it insulting and I always wonder why the directors feel they must resort to these Pavlovian efforts instead of trusting the power of the story. [Some striking, effective uses of music in film, I recommend The Unbearable Lightness of Being (the Czech composer Leos Janacek), Wings of Desire (Jurgen Knieper, German composer), and nearly all of Krzysztof Kieslowski's films (the Polish composer Zbigniew Preisner).]

Back to Lucy. This is a wild story that draws on Tree of Life, The Matrix, Her, and Under the Skin, the latter two of which, like Lucy, feature Scarlett Johannson (or her voice) in the starring role. Someone (I don't know who first did it - maybe Jonathan Glazer? Spike Jones?) had the clever idea to tap into Johannson's inability to act by making use of an innate robotic quality. Scarlett is perfectly suited for these three roles.

Luc Besson's best-known films include The Professional, La Femme Nikita, and The Fifth Element. In all three, beautiful, young, initially-naive, often scantily-clad women are in peril at the beginning, but not for long, as they eventually reveal themselves to be steely fortresses of calm and strength, albeit usually with the aid of a man. The violence is brutal, sometimes gratuitous, but often righteous.

Besson likes interesting music and in Lucy, two standouts are "Sister Rust" by Damon Albarn and the final number, "God's Whisper," by Raury. (Don't watch the YouTube video of the Raury song, though, as it is execrable. The song is much more powerful if you listen to it, as I did, at the culmination of the film. Its odd, powerful eeriness could have fit in easily with the soundtrack to In the Name of the Father.) 

Last but not least, Lucy is also worth seeing because of the impressive special effects, cinematography, and sharp editing. So even/especially if you're not a fan of Scarlett Johannson, you may like her after this film. If not, see Her and Under the Skin for good measure. You'll see what I mean.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Great Books + Films (2015)

"The part of art which is art, and not device, unshackles us from usefulness almost entirely. It emplaces us far into those impractical conditions that nonetheless feel to us somehow essential: laughter, contemplation, wonder, tears."

-Jane Hirshfield in Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World


The following books and films - some new, some older - have met the above "impractical conditions" for me so far this year.

Books:

Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness
Art on Fire
Suspended Sentences
The End of Days
O. Henry Prize Stories (2014) 
Do Not Deny Me
An Innocent Abroad: Life-Changing Trips from 35 Great Writers
Outline
101 Places Not to See Before You Die
Visitation
Paul Bowles' Travels: Collected Writings
Gottland 
The Accidental
Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent
The Sheltering Sky
Wild  
The Time of the Assassins
The Ten Thousand Things
H is for Hawk
Elegy on Kinderklavier
The Dream of a Common Language
Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary
Harlequin’s Millions
Happy Are the Happy
The Seventh Day
Without You There is No Us
Unbecoming
Limber
Belfast Noir
All Days are Night
How We Are
The Interpreter
Refund: Stories
The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher: Stories
Housekeeping
Waiting for the Barbarians: Essays
The Charterhouse of Parma
Traveling in Place: Armchair Travel
City Beasts: 14 Stories
A Bad Character
Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932
Girl in a Band
Mozart in the Jungle
A Season in Hell
Blue Angel
Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens
Wolf Hall + Bring Up the Bodies
The Girl Next Door
The Scapegoat
Irma Voth
Lost Illusions
Giving Up the Ghost
Beyond the Chestnut Trees
Brooklyn
Goldengrove
Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World
Her
Munich Airport
When We Were Orphans
Alys, Always
On the Move: A Life
The Long-Winded Lady
Hausfrau: A Novel
Haiku: Basho, Buson, Issa
Milosz: Selected and Last Poems
An Artist of the Floating World
Girl at War

Films:

The Vanishing (original Danish version)
The Cold Lands
(Untitled)
Foreign Letters
The Duel
Donkey Skin
Naked Lunch
Bay of Angels  
Sophie Scholl: Final Days
Umbrellas of Cherbourg
An Unreasonable Man
The Heiress 
Dodsworth
Level Five
Abuse of Weakness
For a Woman
Junebug 
I Am Yours
Mon Oncle 
The Silence
Now, Voyager
Oranges and Sunshine
Sherrybaby
A Man Escaped
Pan’s Labyrinth   
12
Polanski’s Macbeth
Boyhood                                                                 
Get On Up                                                              
Nine Lives                                                              
A Night to Remember
Nightcrawler
My Own Private Idaho
Predestination
Force Majeure
Bird People
Birdman
Foxcatcher
Fugitive Pieces
Safe
Housekeeping
Silent Light
The Strange Little Cat
Olive Kitteridge
The Little Bedroom
Place of Execution
Art and Craft
If You Don't, I Will
Applause
Honey
The Babadook
Whiplash
Winter Sleep
Mr. Turner
The Nun

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Leaving Berlin

I've just started reading Joseph Kanon's Leaving Berlin and it occurred to me that five years ago yesterday, I left New York City for Berlin, where I spent six months (in Schoneberg and in Prenzlauer Berg), connecting with artists, learning German, writing about art and culture, and traveling throughout the country. (Please see Leipzig, Unter den Linden, Potsdam, In East Berlin, Biking the Berlin Wall, and History Lessons for some of my observations.) Six months isn't that long in the grand scheme of things; I have spent much longer periods of time in other cities/countries, but somehow, Berlin takes up more space on my brain's hard drive. At the risk of sounding too eerie, I think it's because of the ghosts you encounter in unexpected places in every corner of the city. It is this juxtaposition of the past with the present that I experienced in 2010 that Alex, the protagonist of Kanon's novel, experiences when he revisits the city of his birth in 1949.

Thank you to the lovely guys at St. George's New & Second-Hand English Bookstore in Prenzlauer Berg, for all the book recommendations. I read about 50 in all during my stay, many of them set in Berlin - Fatherland, Alone in Berlin, Stasiland, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, Berlin Stories, Berlin Diaries, The Weimar Culture, and Berlin - The City and the Court. Being physically and historically immersed in the past and present of a place makes for a lasting imprint no matter where, and is undoubtedly why Berlin continues to haunt me. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Travels in 2014 - Poland, London, Copenhagen

It's been over a year since my last post. I spent significant portions of 2014 reading, writing, and traveling. I revisited two places (Poland and London) which I hoped would recall old memories and form new ones for the book I'm writing. Success!

Poland in Spring. Most places seem lovelier in the spring and Poland was no exception. Warsaw, Krakow, Wroclaw, and Opole. People I knew from my two years as a Peace Corps volunteer many years ago, like the Dean of the University of Opole. Deja vu and jamais vu. I changed and the country changed. Former residences and places of work looked smaller because the greenery got bigger in the intervening 20 years. Superficial signs of "The West" like Zara, Sephora, Starbuck's. Comforting signs of the past like my favorite Bar Mleczny (many pierogi were consumed here), "nie ma" (though not as often), concrete, squeaky trams, long train rides with residual Polish cigarette smells (I like this!), gray buildings, beautiful flowers, friendly people. Wonderful art in every city I visited. Strych, a Slow Food restaurant in Opole's Rynek (Town Square). [May 2015 update: sadly, Strych has closed.] New friends like the photographer Piotr Klosek. Walks around Wola and the Uprising Museum. Praga. Krakow's Schindler's Factory and MOCAK. A Woody Allen film at Warsaw's Palace of Culture and Science and the Jim Jarmusch vampire film in Wroclaw. Successfully locating a number of Kieskowski's Decalogue filming locations. Castles, gardens, churches.

London in the Fall. Every visit here presents things that puzzle, dazzle, and excite. Fallen golden leaves in the parks, but flowers still in bloom. More great art here: Turner at Tate Britain and Malevich at Tate Modern; The Serpentine and Whitechapel Galleries; Dennis Severs' House in Spitalfields. Gordon Ramsey's restaurant on Bread Street. Bermondsey and Brick Lane. A tart fruit tart at Pretty Cuppa. I relished seeing five friends again from various chapters of my past - but now in a new setting -  and viewing the city through their eyes. Indian food with friends in Croydon. A visit to an old friend in Acton. A stay with a friend in the villagey Putney, birthplace of Thomas Cromwell, home of the Putney Canteen, and the site of a theater that hosted one of the premieres of Gone Girl. Notting Hill's Portobello Road, where I fervently wished I could have had a pound or three every time I was asked where the blue door was. I didn't know then and I still don't know now, though I think I walked by the place used as the bookshop in the film. On my last night in London, a friend and I saw the Nick Cave film 20,000 Days on Earth at the ICA. A sad, reluctant departure back to the States the next morning.

Copenhagen in the Fall. First time here to visit a NYC/Berlin friend. A rainy boat tour. The Little Mermaid statue - much-abused, but always restored to daintiness and larger than you think. Midnight fireworks at the frivolous Tivoli Gardens. Grungy Christiania. No Noma for me, but a tuna melt at Cafe Holberg No. 19 in  Nyhaven did the trick. Sleek denizens in gray and black, elegant, tall, blond. The Meatpacking District, where meat is still packed and art is now shown. Avant-garde architecture at DAC. The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, a highlight of the trip for its serene setting alone. Getting lost among the sculptures at the Glyptotek.

I travel to shake up my snow globe, to prevent complacence, and to reshape my view of the world and my place within it.