Our big event of May was our trip to Los Angeles and Carmel-by-the-Sea. We were away for about 2 weeks and had an incredible time. As I mentioned in my Planning Our Vacation Camera Edition post, I relied mostly on a couple of film cameras so it will be a while before I get all that film developed and scanned and post about the vacation that went by too quickly.
But that wasn’t the only thing we did in May.
Earlier in the month, we went to visit my brother and went with him to Lorimer Park on a lovely spring afternoon. Knowing I would have a lot of film to develop in the near future, I brought my digital Nikon Z fc with my Nikkor 18-140mm lens.
Back in February, I wrote about the Casio G-Shock I bought that came in a damaged box. The shipping box was messed up, the cardboard box inside was crushed, and the metal box for the watch was nearly flattened. So flattened, that I could not even open it.
Teddy Baldassarre, from whom I bought the watch, quickly sent me a replacement and told me they didn’t need me to ship the damaged box back.
I told my brother that if he could open the box, he could have the watch if it worked. I finally brought the watch to him on that visit. He grabbed a couple of tools and was able to open the metal box and other than a somewhat twisted band, the watch worked fine. I bought the G-Shock so I would have a durable watch for travel. Clearly, this is a durable watch.
In addition to being away for a couple of weeks, we returned with 5 more days off before needing to return to work. We had 2 more vacation days and then the 3-day Memorial Day weekend.
We didn’t do much other than relax, do our laundry, restock groceries, and get caught up on some things. However, we did keep the vacation vibe going by eating out on 3 occasions.
After grocery shopping our first day back, we went to lunch at Marathon on the Square which is just 3 blocks from our apartment. Given how close it is, we actually don’t go there that often and, when we do, we’re usually quite pleased and wonder why we don’t eat there more often. We both had a tasty blackened Mahi-Mahi sandwich with a couple of glasses of wine.
The next day, we went to Tria Café near Washington West. We go there and to the Tria in Rittenhouse Square often. That day, we shared some of our favorites, the artichoke and asparagus panzanella salad and the mozzarella and prosciutto sandwich. And, of course, some wine.
Saturday, we basically stayed home except for our typical trip to the farmers market. We were glad they still had asparagus and strawberries. The only thing we’re worried we may miss while traveling in May is some of the local spring fruits and vegetables.
We went out a couple of times on Sunday, once for brunch at Twenty Manning. We both had their excellent shakshuka.
In the afternoon, we returned to one of our favorite bars, Friday Saturday Sunday. We hadn’t been there since before the pandemic. The usual bartender remembered use and gave us a nice welcome. He’s quite inventive with his cocktails and has a frequently changing selection. I got the Master of Disguise (blanco tequila, cider quinquina, gran classico, guyanese rum) and Holly got the Terms and Conditions (hendrick’s gin, cap corse mattei blanc, fino sherry, rabarbaro sfumato, dry curaçao).
While we were in Carmel, we had a new-to-us Spanish Vermouth, Barbadillo Atamán, and fell in love with it. When we got home, we were fortunate to find that a local wine store carries it. We were also fortunate to have noticed that the bartender had posted a photo of a cocktail he had made using the Atamán.
It wasn’t on the menu, but we asked about it, and he was able to make it for us. He seemed particularly gratified that someone wanted it. We shared a moment enthusing about the Atamán.
It was a wonderful reunion, and I’m sure we’ll be going back before long.
We had another fairly lazy day on Monday. After our traveling adventures, we were content to not doing anything for the Memorial Day holiday other than cooking at home. We made a simple dinner of BBQ chicken, asparagus, beans, and mac-n-cheese.
We had to go back to work the day after Memorial Day. It was rather jarring after having been off for so long. Although the traveling part of our time off seemed to go by too fast, the overall break from work felt significant.
One of the mildly surprising aspects of our vacation is how little I read. As I mention in my Planning Our 2023 Vacation post, I had 2 Kindle books and 1 print book with me in anticipation of having plenty of reading time. As it turned out, I didn’t have as much downtime as I thought I might, and I only started, but didn’t finish, 1 book: Eleanor Catton’s Birnam Wood.
I’m not sure what was different about last year that we had more time to linger in our room reading. We did a lot of hiking, exploring, and eating out last year as well.
I had not read Catton’s The Luminaries, which, obviously, was a big deal at the time. I was curious but never got around to it. When Birnam Wood came out, I read some good reviews and decided to add it to my Overdrive holds. It became available a couple of days before we were to leave so I decided to make that one of my vacation books.
Birnam Wood is a dense yet compelling book that cleverly walks a line between literary fiction and thriller. It gets off to a little bit of a slow start as it introduces the characters and sets up its premise: a left-wing group of young people in New Zealand surreptitiously plants gardens in various private and public spaces. They’re approached by an American billionaire who want to help fund their cause. Members of the group are suspicious of his intentions to varying degrees but are ultimately thankful for the funding. Nothing good can come of such an arrangement and nothing does.
After a somewhat slow beginning, Birnam Wood develops into a real page turner, especially in the final 3rd. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book where I’ve been 2 or 3 pages from the end and still had no idea where it was going. The ending is challenging but strangely satisfying.
It’s also a book of big ideas mostly involving the trouble state of the world. It’s not exactly apocalyptic, but there’s a dark undercurrent of things being on the verge of going terribly wrong. It carries a bleak message for its millennial characters.
It’s not necessarily a fun nor easy read, but it is intriguing. It wasn’t exactly the perfect, light vacation book!
The other book I read this month was Anita Loos’s saucy Gentlemen Prefer Blondes from 1925. I finished it just prior to our vacation. It would have been a much better vacation read since it was so breezy and delightful.
Lorelei Lee, an attractive, small town woman, manipulates the men who pursue her getting them to spend lavishly on her and even paying for a European trip for her and her friend, Dorothy Shaw. It’s a smart and often very funny book. I can only imagine how bold this book must have seemed in 1925 with its smart and progressive women at the center and its biting satire of a certain kind a male behavior.
The edition I checked out of the library where I work also has wonderful illustrations by Ralph Barton.
Books Read in 2023
So far, I’ve read 14 books in 2023:
- Modigliani Up Close, various authors
- Daddy, Emma Cline (library book)
- Blood and Guts in High School, Kathy Acker
- White on White, Ayşegül Savaş
- The Direction of the Wind, Mansi Shah (Kindle book)
- Men without Women, Haruki Murakami (Kindle book)
- Outline, Rachel Cusk
- An Immense World, Ed Yong
- Blindness, José Saramago
- Chemistry, Weike Wang (Kindle book)
- The Talented Mr. Ripley, Patricia Highsmith
- All’s Well That Ends Well, William Shakespeare
- Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Anita Loos (library book)
- Birnam Wood, Eleanor Catton (Kindle book)
This Creative Midlife Posts in 2023
- New Canon 28mm Lens
- December 2022 Update
- Favorite Photos from the 2nd Half of 2022
- Canon AE-1 with Lomochrome Metropolis
- January 2023 Update
- Minolta XE with Lomography Berlin
- Mandalas in Procreate
- Minolta X-700 with Ilford HP5 Plus
- A Visit to the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge
- February 2023 Update
- Long Birthday Weekend 2023
- Pittsburgh Trip 2023 Part 1
- Pittsburgh Trip 2023 Part 2
- March 2023 Update
- Yashica Mat-124G with Kodak Ektar
- Olympus XA with Kodak Pro Image
- Morris Arboretum Visit
- April 2023 Update
- Planning Our 2023 Vacation
- Planning Our Vacation Camera Edition