Friday, July 29, 2016

Rocky Start to a Greek Vacation

I somehow managed to raise three children without ever hearing about Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (also called coxsackie virus,) but it just caught up with me, via our grandkids Amalia, 4 ½ and Nico 16 months, as we boarded a plane on July 17 heading for Athens at the start of our annual family vacation to Greece.

I’ve since learned that HFM disease is very common, usually affecting children under five, and is a virus passed on by sneezing, coughing or contact with body fluids (as in changing diapers.)  Daughter Eleni thinks that both of her little ones contracted it while playing in water sprayed in the playground in Central Park.  They each suffered one day of fever and then some red spots on the feet, which Amalia was still complaining about when we got on the plane—beginning a sleepless night—a nine hour flight-- featuring Amalia crying “my toes hurt” and Nico sitting in my lap and watching the same Mickey Mouse cartoon five times in a row.

Very rarely does the HFM virus affect adults and when it does, it’s a lot worse than it is in children, as I learned.  On the fourth day in Greece—after dancing and feasting at the annual festival in Nick’s native village of Lia on the Albanian border—I began to see red welts and gray blisters covering my hands and feet.  I had hardly noticed the sore throat that came a day or so before, although the disease often announces itself with sores inside the mouth.

That afternoon we drove from the village to the Zagorahoria—about 90 minutes away.  We stayed at the “Art Deco Greece” hotel, carved out of an antique stone mansion, with stunning views of mountains and the world’s deepest gorge, but by then I was shaking with fever and the bottoms of my feet were so sore I could barely walk. Needless to say I was hopeless as a child-minder.

The next day I didn’t even try to get up for breakfast—Nick kindly brought me the coffee I needed for survival.  When it was time to leave, walking the maybe 100 feet to the car from the room while dragging my suitcases was agony because the bottoms of my feet were so sore.  About 20 feet from the car I was ready to sit down in the path and cry, but I didn’t. It occurred to me that my hubris, about being able to walk like a young person and carry my own suitcases at age 75, was coming back to bite me in true Greek style.

Saturday, July 23, was Nick’s birthday and a family who lived in Yannina (where we were now ensconced in the Grande Serai, a Byzantine-themed hotel) had scheduled a co-birthday party at their home for Nick and their son, Vassili, --Nick’s godchild—who turned 30 on the same day.  By the time they got a look at me—now with sores at the corners of my mouth and nose and on my forehead and scalp, and blisters on my elbows and knees—they were understanding (and undoubtedly relieved) to hear that I wouldn’t be coming to the party.  I had learned on the internet that I could be contagious for as much as a month.

The next day we took the ferry to Corfu, where we have a trusty extended family of relatives, and on Monday one of the four sisters—Aleka—took me to a series of Greek doctors.  (This was the first day I could walk like a normal person, but my feet and hands were so swollen, the only shoes I could wear were heel-less slippers.) 

The first doctor I saw, after waiting in a crowded room, took one look at me and said, “You need a dermatologist, not a pathologist.”  So we went to a woman derm, who said, “If you didn’t have the back story about HFM disease, I’d think you had vasculitis.”  Then she ordered 23 tests to be done on me, which we promptly carried out in another clinic.  Her last words to me, in a funereal tone, were “In a week, your nails are going to come off.”

Aleka and I stopped for a much needed iced café frappe in the hellish heat, when she got a phone call from the clinic saying they needed to send my tests to Athens to be read and that would cost 180 euros.   At least my hands and feet had stopped hurting!  But my fingertips had become numb and hard—it felt as if I was wearing heavy leather gloves.  I needed help buttoning my own blouse.

The next day, Tuesday, we drove to the beach house in Barbati, Corfu, where we would be staying for four days.  On the way, I noticed that the skin was peeling off my hands in long strips—there was no pain, but the skin underneath was soft and red and sensitive.   People we encountered, in restaurants and on the beach, if they noticed my peculiar looking hands and feet, were very tactful.  

So today, Thursday, my hands and face are starting to look normal and this morning I went with the grandkids to the beach and had lunch at a tavern under the olive trees.  My energy level is back to about 50 per cent of normal. I thought I’d better explain why I’ve been absent from the blog and social media for so long.

And as I was typing this, my first fingernail came off.    

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Donald Trump and Diane Sawyer--Post Election Fun and Games on Nov. 7, 2012

(Just came across thus post that I did in Nov. of 2012 when I was amused by Trump's reaction to Obama's victory.    Four years later Trump seems a lot less amusing and a lot scarier.)
Nov. 7, 2012--Much more fun than following the pre-election debates (yawn!) and the election night results is reading today's after- election commentary and Monday-morning quarterbacking on the internet. 

Trending now as number one topic on Yahoo is not a search for the breakdown of electoral votes, but the burning question: Was Diane Sawyer drunk?  Evidently ABC and her colleagues are saying she was merely exhausted from staying up night after night memorizing election facts and figures. I say, never mind if she was celebrating Obama's win off camera; she still did a great job.  I think Diane Sawyer's wicked smart and gorgeous to boot.

Salon has listed the 20 top sore losers after the election results came in and Donald Trump has won first and second place in this race for two tweets , one of which he has deleted after cooling down a little.  This is what Salon said about Trump:

(Credit: Salon/Benjamin WheelockAs election night wore on and an Obama victory became more and more likely, conservatives began explaining away the loss for Mitt Romney and other Republicans. On Fox, Bill O’Reilly kicked it off on a sour note, predicting on Fox News: “Obama wins because it’s not a traditional America anymore. The white establishment is the minority. People want things.” Then it deteriorated.
The sorest losers, ranked in order:
1). Donald J. Trump, for his tweet:
He lost the popular vote by a lot and won the election. We should have a revolution in this country!
Trump has since deleted this tweet, maybe after he learned Obama would not lose the popular vote.
I think the painting of Trump on Salon (above, by Benjamin Wheelock)  is probably adding to the mogul's anger and disappointment over Romney's loss, so I thought I'd repost a portrait of Trump which hangs in his estate Mar-a-Lago,  which is now a private club.  This is the way Trump prefers to see himself portrayed:

I first posted my photograph of this painting after a lunch at Mar-a-Lago in April 2011 when the Donald and his family passed through and greeted us visitors.  This is what I posted about it:

Lunch at Mar-a-Lago with the Donald

Someone passed this self-aggrandizing photo on to political blogger Andrew Sullivan, whose blog is Goliath to "A Rolling Crone's" David.  When Sullivan posted it, hilarity ensued, but no one knew where the photo came from in the first place until another political blogger, Michael Shaw, traced it back to my humble blog and my pocket digital camera.    Suddenly I was getting 3,000 hits an hour--a heady experience for  a novice blogger.  If you want to read more about the brouhaha, click on

"Somebody's Playing my Trump Card"

Meanwhile I'm going back to search the internet for more sour-grapes tweets from Trump and explanations of Diane Sawyer's slurring.  It takes my mind off the rain, sleet and snow in the nor'easter which is fast heading our way.  (Now where did I store that snow shovel?)

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Overdosing on Art in NYC—Part One

 Last month, while in Manhattan visiting the grandkids, I had a rare opportunity to go on an “art walk” with two friends, fellow crones Mary and Lynn, who live in Manhattan and are sophisticated art mavens.  They are au courant with all the happening events in the city and they periodically do a stroll through art galleries to see what the hottest contemporary artists are up to.

We started with lunch at the Chop Shop, a small, trendy Asian fusion restaurant on 10th Avenue near 24th Street, then, with Lynn holding her list of galleries, we visited so many that I can’t remember all of the artists’ names.  But I’ll share with you what I do remember.

The only artist I knew about ahead of time was Wayne Thiebaud, at Allan Stone Projects.  Often called a New York Pop artist, Thiebaud is famous for his paintings of luscious cakes, pies, donuts, cupcakes, etc.
I hadn’t seen a nude by Thiebaud before. I think this one is pouting because she can't get to any of those pastries.
I can’t remember who is the artist behind this patriotic collage…

Nor do I remember who painted this touching tribute to Mom and Pop.

Bruce Conner at the Paula Cooper Gallery has done “large jacquard tapestries”  the handout says, “Woven with cotton thread on a Jacquard loom in Belgium, each tapestry was derived from a specific collage…..sourced from old illustrated books in the Old and New Testaments and the life of Christ.  The collages were scanned and digitally edited...  to produce weave files.” (I think that means he didn’t actually weave them or draw them himself.  I don’t know... 

 But I think his art is saying something about religion versus modern technology.)

Even the streets outside the galleries on 21st, 22nd and 24th Street were full of art.  I have no idea of the reason behind this lady on a wall, but I like it.

And this man washing windows outside a gallery didn’t seem a bit worried by the sinister animals and mummies lurking around him.
And this crazy wall—is it graffiti or art?

The sign over the door, “Heavenly Body Works” doesn’t explain much, but Lynn and Mary said, “You have to come in!”
Turns out it’s a chic and extremely expensive store of “Comme des Garcons”.  There was an Asian man trying on a wire cage that he placed over his head, resting on his shoulders.  Lynn suggested a resemblance to Hannibal Lecter’s headgear.

The Paula Cooper Gallery was presenting new work by Meg Webster—the only female artist I recall seeing that day.  The handout says, “Meg Webster’s work finds inspiration in the intrinsic beauty of natural materials.”

Here’s Mary in Meg Webster’s “Solar Grow Room”, looking pretty in pink. It’s an “ecosystem sustained by solar panels installed on the galley exterior.  Bathed in pink light, raised planters are cultivated with moss, grass, flowers and other vegetation."

In a larger room we encountered more of Meg Webster’s art.

Here’s a visitor taking a photo of “Volume for Lying Flat” made of peat and green moss to create a human-sized bed.”  I wonder what they’d do if I lay down on it?

I walked right into “Stick and Structure” made from “branches, twigs and flowering plants that converge to form an enclosed circle.”  I didn’t check on the price.

A man was cleaning the floor around Meg Webster’s “Mother Mound Salt” which required nine thousand pounds of coarse salt.  It “evokes the curve of the earth or...a pregnant belly,”  the handout said.

The last gallery we visited, the Gagosian Gallery, featured Richard Serra, who seems to have shows everywhere right now.  The NYTimes review by Ken Johnson called him “Certainly today’s greatest living sculptor of Minimalist abstraction.”

 We approached Serra’s giant structure called “NJ1”—think of a sky-high letter “U” made of rusty metal.  The only way to get inside is to walk into the curve of the U and then turn either left or right into the openings there.  Mary and Lynn bravely charged into the huge edifice, only to realize that they were in a maze of paths and turns.

I took one look at the thing and refused to go in.  I’ve got claustrophobia, guys, and the NYTimes review said  “Claustrophobes beware!” The title of the review was “Richard Serra's Behemoths Get Into Your Head."

After our Art Walk was through, my mind was reeling with all the modern art I’d seen—and I was starting to wonder why, as an artist, I’d spent all that time in life-drawing and anatomy classes when you could become rich and famous with just 9000 pounds of coarse salt. 

But the very next day, I took myself on an art walk to the Metropolitan Museum of Art where I finally got to seen the stunning exhibit “Pergamon and the Hellenistic Kingdoms of the Ancient World”, not to mention, on the Met’s roof, the spooky red house inspired by the Bates mansion from Psycho and Edward Hopper’s painting of the house by the railroad, which I love.

But I’ll tell you about that another day.