On the road ...

New York City, coastal Maine—life feels like it's getting back to normal for the vaccinated.

The past two weeks have been marked by more travel and it feels so good to see new places, breathe its air (and not your own breath), hug the friends you haven’t seen since you can’t remember when, and sit down to food and drink with them. Our server the other night at Avenue N in PVD wasn’t even masked. What a difference the vaccine makes.

The week began with the kick-off of my wife Ann’s low-rez MFA program at Salve Regina in Newport, RI, and the concurrent workshop with Andre Dubus III and Nick Flynn, eight days of classes and readings. And while classes still had to be remote (for the last time, I pray), we were still able to get together with students and faculty in person.

I honestly think one Covid-related change is here to stay. Readings by authors from remote locations, especially if they’re watched by a group together.

New York City is alive again…

While Ann was teaching and running her program, I took the opportunity to hop down to New York City. I was able to have dinner with a dear friend, pop in to see the West Village’s newest restaurant, Angie Mar’s Les Trois Cheveaux (she’s going big), enjoy a cigar with my pal Laurence, and make my simple, solo, summer meal, tomatoes with basil, garlic and tomatoes (which I’m proud to say is one of Food52s Genius Recipes!).

Angie Mar, above, in between photo shoots, is getting lots of great press. She’s doing family-and-friends meals this weekend in preparation for the real opening of Les Trois Chevaux the following week. But it’s always a little bitter-sweet these returns, finding places like one of our favorite coffee houses gone for good.

The 4th and on to Maine…

It’s not the 4th without our beloved Vienna Beef hotdogs with a natural casing. Chicago-style, with neon green relish, yellow mustard, hot peppers and celery salt, served with Ann’s baked beans and potato salad, followed by 360 degrees of fireworks on our west Providence rooftop.

And then off to Maine…

Thanks to an invitation from our friends Harry and Sarah, we spent a couple days in Vinalhaven, a lovely island in the middle of Penobscot Bay, an hour’s ferry ride from Rockland.

We toured the bay:

For those who love wooden boats, the above is a North Haven Dinghy, the oldest, continually raced, one-design craft in America.

One of my favorite houses in Maine, in a small cove off Vinalhaven:

And, of course, gin and tonics overlooking the bay.

We even managed to get in an impromptu Friday Cocktail Hour on Instagram Live after hearing Harry’s description of a cocktail he had in Ashville, NC, four years ago called Carolina Dream, featuring yet another amaro, which we’ve come to love so much, this one Zucca Rabarbaro.

The Friday before we made Dark and Stormys, in honor of the Newport MFA, as the guests arrived.

What we’re reading…

I returned to a book I’d read in junior high, the dark classic by S.E. Hinton, That Was Then, This Is Now, about young toughs in Oklahoma—which holds up remarkably well 50 years after its initial publication.

Ann writes:

This week I read Nick Flynn’s memoir, THIS IS THE NIGHT OUR HOUSE WILL CATCH FIRE, a lyrical, raw, brutally honest memoir about marriage and all kinds of love. Now I’m reading REMEMBER ME THIS WAY by Sabine Durrant, a novel about being married to a narcissist. Both books examine who we love and why and how love can destroy us and lift us up.

Beyond books we both recommend these fabulous pieces from the archives of The New Yorker, a profile by Roger Angell of his biological father (who, I learned, attended my high school in Cleveland), gorgeous work by Angell, who will turn 101 this September. And a piece by Truman Capote on a trip through Spain.

Oh and this surprising and wonderful short story by Saki, master of the short short story, called “The Open Window.”

What we’re watching…

Abandoned by Ann on Saturday (she left me for a pedicure—“And I’m glad I did,” she says defiantly, “because every time I look down at my toes, I smile!”—I determined it would be a movie day. First up, was Big Eyes (2014), at Ann’s suggestion, which I failed to see when it was in theaters (all links are to the movie’s Youtube trailer). There are certain actors whom I will watch, no matter the movie. Helen Mirin, Robert Downey Jr., Michael Keaton, Kate Blanchette. High on that list is Christolf Waltz, who stars in Big Eyes as a wannabe painter who falls in love with a talented painter, played by Amy Adams. He slowly begins to steal her work as his own and continues the theft until a final hilarious courtroom scene. A sad story, based on fact, beautifully acted by both Waltz and Adams. For rent on many services.

Also on that list of must see actors, anything with Samuel L. Jackson. Thus, after Big Eyes, it was time for Snakes on a Plane (2006), an absolutely ridiculous and wonderful movie. Available for rent on many services. Perfect for a Saturday afternoon.

With prodigal Ann returned, we began Sunday with a movie every critic is raving about, The Summer of Soul, about a series of concerts in Harlem in the summer of 1969, featuring Stevie Wonder, Sly and the Family Stone, and Nina Simone. While I don’t think either of us will gush to the extent critics are, it’s a fabulous documentary using film that would have otherwise not seen any light whatsoever. Highly recommended. On Hulu and in theaters.

And finally in my double double feature weekend, Will Ferrell and Emma Thompson in the very meta Stranger Than Fiction (2006), wherein Ferrell plays the character Thompson is writing about in her novel, who happens to be an auditor for the IRS and a numbers savant. He hears her narrating his every action, which spooks him, until one day she writes, “Little did he know….” On learning that she is going to kill him, he begins a desperate search to find the reclusive author. Terrific movie with great supporting work from Dustin Hoffman and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Links were loving…

Kind of anglophilic links this time but that’s what struck us. Such as this engaging article about being an Italian restaurant in London. (London eater.)

And a slew from the Guardian, such as how to make Scotch eggs from the ever industrious and inquisitive Felicity Cloake. I always find her investigations enthralling.

And speaking of climate change, I mean eggs, here is an egg fried so beautifully on a sidewalk I have to include it here. I mean, this thing doesn’t just heat, it cooks in moments the concrete is so hot.

Ann called out two restaurant reviews from The Guardian as examples of how much fun British food criticism is. The first, a good review from the excellent veteran Jay Raynor, and the second, a bad review by Grace Dent, but both so lively and engaged with their subject and, well, writing about it.

And then there’s this, the world’s biggest cherry.

And finally …

This incredibly touching spelling bee win:

See you in a couple of weeks. Please feel free to comment or ask questions! Salut!

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