A Gift From My Mother

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After visiting the Detroit Institute of Arts recently, I realized how enthusiastic I get when I see certain pieces. The one above by Odilon Redon called “Evocation of Butterflies” painted about 1910 is one of the ones I like. It reminds me so much of some of the colors and design elements used in the 1960s. When you see it in person, there are some absolutely brilliant dabs of color that are almost iridescent.

While I was growing up, I’m sure my mother took me to the available art museum and galleries several times a year. When we traveled or went on vacation, we always went to the art museums. I can remember all the talk around me about art. When we walked through a gallery or a museum, she talked about the paintings and the artists.

She also painted as a hobby. There was almost always a painting in progress or some other art project in the house.

I only have one of her paintings (pictured below) and it was not her favorite. When I look at it though, I remember all the time she spent with me looking at art. Taking each piece in, letting my eye wander over the piece and enjoying it so much.

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Detroit Institute of Arts Sunday Afternoon

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Yesterday, Sunday, September 15, 2013, I went to the Detroit Institute of Arts(DIA) to visit some art I hadn’t seen in a while. It was a cool day with drizzly rain. Yard work was not an option. The sky was a mottled grey with occasional bursts of sunlight.

When the Detroit Emergency Financial Manager(EFM) decided on bankruptcy for Detroit, Christies Auction House visited the DIA. I guess it took something like that to make me pay more attention to the treasure I have available to me.

This time I opted for the Dutch Golden Age(17th century) when the Dutch Republic was important in trade, militarily and art. I so enjoy the way they used light in the paintings which was so much like the way the light was playing in the sky outside. We can take photos of the paintings as long as we do not use a flash. The Dutch Golden Age has quite a few galleries. Many of the paintings in the era were secular. It give us a glimpse into some of the ways life was lived in the era.

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The painting above is called Game of Cards (ca. 1660) by Hendrik van der Burch. I noticed this one because then proportions of the children are the same as adults. So, although people tend to think of the era as an almost photographic depiction, it is not. The paint has a Persian rug, a pitcher modeled after Chinese pottery and a map of England. The servant most probably has been brought from Africa. It shows the global nature of Dutch Republic trade.

One of the other things I think of when I think Dutch Golden is landscapes. Possibly, because of the geographic location, the cloud formations can be striking. There were painting of pastures, seas, coastlines and more. Again the use of light to emphasize or illuminate was amazing. I took photos of two landscapes by Jacob Issaksz van Ruisdael. Both are oil paints on oak panels painted mid-17th century.

The first one is just called a”Landscape”( ca. 1646)and is probably what I think of when I think of Dutch landscape. It captures the excitement of the ever changing weather. It may be one of my favorites because I am living in a place with many different kinds of weather. Looking at the painting, you can see that he used so many colors in the sky. I am a cloud watcher and love the sky when it includes reds. According to the museum write up next to the painting, the picture is a snapshot in time and implies the impermanence of life.

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The DIA has some guides to the art posted nest to the picture. They tell the viewer what the various pieces of the pictures mean. If you go to a present day gallery, the viewers sometimes talk about all the symbolism in pieces. I sometimes wonder if the artist was asked.

The next one is titled “The Jewish Cemetery”( ca. 1654). There is a lot of symbolism in this one according to the write up. The clouds imply rain and rebirth. The rainbow hope after a storm. The lighter clouds show the end of the storm as another beacon of hope. The ruins and tombs show impermanence and the inevitability of death. Here light is used to signify hope in the face of mortality. The way the Dutch Golden Age artists use light has always been a joy to my eyes.

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In Rembrandt Harmansz van Rijn’s depiction titled “Christ”(ca.1649), he used a Jewish model which was not usual. He paid attention to historical accuracy when possible. In this painting, there is no obvious external source of light. The light shining from with in the portrait shows compassion. according to the write up.

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There is so much in this section of the DIA that I could not do it justice. It is wonderful to have a museum that always leaves me wanting to come back.

As I was walking out, I heard the Sunday afternoon piano concert in the Kresge Court. I stopped by the DIA Café for lunch before heading home. I got to there 15 minutes before it closed so my selection were limited. The food is usually good so I went with the roast turkey dinner.

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Since it was the end of the day, my plate got loaded. It was fairly good for a meal that had been in a steam table for a couple of hours. Actually, the mixed steamed vegetables were slightly al dente and surprisingly good and I got at least two portions.

After lunch( they were closed by the time I finished, so no doggy bag), I waddled to my car to go home. I had no desire to eat for the rest of the day.

Bacon Fascination

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My fascination with bacon all started about six months ago when a new butcher opened shop near my credit union. I stopped in because I needed some meat.

While I was getting the meat I decided to do a little more shopping since the prices seemed good. I did my shopping and for the first time in my life, I bought bacon that was not pre wrapped in a plastic package. I bought their standard bacon. It was so much better than what I had been buying all my life. I had a bacon experience.

The next time went to the shop, I looked at all the varieties of bacon. They had pecan smoked, cherrywood smoked and apple smoked. They cost a little more. I picked the applewood smoked since it was the smallest price jump. It was wonderful. It had the saltiness of bacon with a slight sweet flavor of apples. The world of bacon beckoned me. The next time I went, I bought the pecan smoked bacon. This was not as good for me. When I opened the package, I could smell the smoke and not the pecan. It tasted like eating a chimney.

Then, I looked at the cherrywood smoked bacon with the extra thick slices. It was more expensive again but I thought I could eat one piece at a time and it the expense would not be so great. I rationed myself to one piece at a time. I savored each and every delicious, salty sweet bite and wondered why I had not discovered the world of bacon before now.

Last week. I went in to buy my cherrywood smoked bacon and the shop was out of it. The shop had added a new bacon and in the spirit of adventure, I gave it a try. The new bacon was Duroc apple smoked bacon. It was far leaner than any bacon on the shelf. I learned that a Duroc is a type of pig. I only bought a few slices intending to go back in a few days to get my cherry smoked bacon.

When I cooked the Duroc applewood smoked bacon, the fat rendered out so well. I was left with a perfectly crisp piece of salty, apple sweet wonderful bacon. While I was eating the bacon, I envisioned the pigs being raised on a farm where they provided pigs with a daily massage along with the mud baths. It was so satisfying and tasty it could only have been the product of very happy pigs. So, right now I’m sticking with the Duroc applewood smoked bacon until the butcher introduces me to yet another new and more wonderful bacon.

Adventurous Jazz

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Last night, August 22, 2013, I finally got out for some music. I went to Motor City Wine to see the Michael Jellick Trio. This one is a gig rather than a jam so it is much more unified event without trying to integrate many musicians.

It was a small crowd which is ambiguous situation for me. It means much less ambient noise. I worry the bar owner will cancel. Last night, it allowed the musicians to experiment a little. I had planned to go to Cliff Bells after one set but the quality of the music kept me for the second set.

The sound here is such that it is a good listening event. They did “One Day My Prince Will Come”. The way this group does it has made it one of my favorites. When I hear the first few notes, I begin to smile. Each time, the intro is different and it is a new song each time. After the number, I was thinking how much I liked it when a friend sitting with me commented on how beautiful it was.

This trio has an amazing calming effect on me. It makes for great sleeping when I get home. Michael Jellick plays with so much complexity that my brain gets tired. Last night, the musicians were on an experimental playground. Michael was changing the volume inside some of the numbers. Michael also did a lot of tempo changes last night. The other kept up with all the changes making for a great sound.

The drummer, Jesse Kramer, kept up with all of it. During one number he used his brushes three ways for three different sounds matching Michael’s play with volume. Last night he used some sticks that had another different sound. After the evening was over, I talked to him and found out it was many little bamboo skewers taped together. Most young drummers do their solos as long and loud. Jesse shows a subtlety and comprehension not usually seen in young drummers.

Eric Nachtrab is relatively new to this trio and is a good fit. His solos are not too long. I am slowly seeing his musical character revealed . Most important though is that he completes the group unified sound.

So, my brain was worn out when I left for home and I was happy,

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A small clip from early in the evening….

Shopping Weird

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Sometime the talk at work goes to shopping especially since our summer office is located in the first enclosed mall in the Detroit area. Most people I work with go the to very large one stop shopping stores. I am weird.

I have tried those stores. And yes, I can get everything on my list in those stores. And with the price of gas, I can see the benefit of one stop shopping. I do have my own routine in shopping and the way I do it means that is get the food I want.

Since I have been retired and only working part time, I have found that taking the time to cook well for myself is a joy. One of the unexpected outcomes has been a change in in how I taste the food. I was also pushed along this path by my daughter and son-in-law taking me to some critically acclaimed restaurants in the Los Angeles, CA area. I have also found I can eat in good places for lunch on my own in Detroit.

So , now I go to a butcher shop. They have the most wonderful fresh, wild salmon. The fishmonger there has taught me so much. It has opened a new world for me. The quality of the meat section is just as good. I am now a fan of cherrywood smoked thick bacon. And the butchers are also great teachers.

Last night I had my favorite of Salmon with lemon caper sauce, spinach and baby carrots sprinkled with a little curry powder. I am now growing herbs and for the lemon caper sauce, I add fresh dill.

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My next stop is the bakery. In general, the bread in supermarkets is usually bland and very soft.

I do go to a supermarket for most of my produce. The one I go to is in a multi- ethnic area and has an incredibly wide variety in the produce section. I can walk through the section and not be familiar with some of the selections. The store does provide the name and with my handy smartphone, I check it out and see if I can try something new. And i do go to the local farmers markets. Some of our local produce stores do not have the variety. And some that specialize in cheap have produce at the end of its life. I have wondered if the produce guys go dumpster diving outside of restaurants to get the produce.

So when we talk at work, I don’t get the cheapest. I don’t get much that is frozen. I do have good food with very little waste. And the folks at work still think I have no idea how to shop properly.

Work and….

Yesterday morning I faced one of my most difficult situations, the dreaded three hour business meeting. It was really a training session for the change my job goes through for summer. A lot of it was new and I had to call a customer and tell her that a previously uncharged service now has a charge. She was upset. When I saw her later in the day, she thanked me for the call. Things like that make work go better. Another customer thanked me for helping them. So the day ended well and I remember the good things about my work.

I was very tired but decided to get a little music and went to Northern Lights Lounge to hear the Mike Jellick Trio.

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Mike Jellick, Miles Brown, Jesse Kramer

The place was packed this week so I sat in way in the back. The music was a little harder to hear and gave me a different perspective. I really like funky jazz and Mike does not have much funk. But, his wild, creative innovative style is absolutely captivating. And I heard it again tonight. It is so good to find I have a little more breath than I thought. I’ll be exploring a bit more.

The Start of the Summer Concerts in Detroit.

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Beatrice Buck Park in Paradise Valley across the street from the Carr Center

Each summer in Detroit, there are so many outdoors concerts of all genres in Detroit and all the suburbs that each evening and weekend the choices are abundant. This last weekend, my two top choices were Jazzin’ on Jefferson or the Carr Center was starting the Summer in the Park series in Paradise Valley Beatrice Buck Park. Yesterday was an homage to Duke Ellington with five different groups, each with a different approach.

I have been to Jazzin’ on Jefferson for the last few years and decided on a change of pace and went to the Carr Center offering.

First, just a little bit about Detroit history. Both Paradise Valley and Blackbottom were neighborhoods on the near east side of Detroit known for their contributions to blues and jazz in the 1930s to 1950s. The Virgil Carr Center is in the building one known as the Harmonie Club which was in the Harmonie Park. The Harmonie Club was built in the Beaux Arts style and is being restored by the Carr Center. When Duke Ellington came to town, he would have played in the clubs either in Blackbottom or Paradise Valley. The park is now a peaceful oasis of green surrounded by historical buildings built at the turn of the last century.

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I arrived to hear the group that was starting at 5:30 p.m. comprised of Buddy Budson(keys), Ibrihim Jones(bass) and George Davidson(dms). There were two vocalists, Ursula Walker and Shahida Nurullah, who alternated on the songs in the set. It didn’t start on time. Just as they were about to begin, I felt a raindrop. No one else seemed to have noticed. Maybe it was a dew drop from the trees. Any of the audience would have been willing to sit through the occasional drop or two but the sound guys just have a vision of all the electronics getting wet.

So, they moved the concert inside. In the case of a concert, moving inside for the audience is just walking across the street. There was so much more to it than just the walk. All the sound equipment had to be set up again. Chairs for the crowd had to be brought to the new concert room so we could sit. One of my friends came in so I sat with her. Finally, at 6:15 p.m. The set began.

I liked the way Buddy Budson handled the program. There were twelve songs in all. The only one done without a vocalist was “Take the ‘A’ Train” which was the signature tune of the Ellington orchestra. He talked about each song a little. Also, who composed the tune, who wrote the lyrics and when it was written. When Shahida Nurullah sang a song, she did the intro. They did all the well known tunes like “Caravan”, “Perdido”, “Satin Doll”, “Sophisticated Lady” and for me, the show stopper sung by Shahida was “It Don’t Mean a Thing(If It Ain’t Got That Swing)”.

It was a composition written in 1931 which was officially 3 years before “swing” was a style. Shahida did a great job with the tune. In truth, when I hear her is it almost always an experience to remember. Her voice is magnificent. She can take a tune, look at it and then sing it with such emotion that she drives the emotion of the song into the audience. With “It Don’t Mean a Thing”, the whole audience was responding with cheers and you could feel the joy. On the other hand, she also sang “Solitude” and the sadness of feeling alone was there and almost palpable in the room.

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Shahida Nurullah

My friend and I were both hungry by the end of the set. She suggested going to 1917 American Bistro where there was jazz with the meal. I knew two of the musicians. Both Charles Greene and Ralph Armstrong are really good. I knew it would not be the usual since this was dinner and I guess I expected dinner accompaniment music. We got there when they were on brake so we got a table and ordered. I had been here before and liked the baby backed ribs and got them again with sautéed spinach and smashed potatoes. I was going to take a picture and for got until I was half way through the meal.

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The meat just fell of the bone and he sauce had just the right amount of spice. The spinach was sautéed in garlic butter and tasted both sweet and slightly acidic. The smashed potatoes are a rough version of mashed potatoes with the skins included in the dish. I took a lot home. And the owner comped us a free drink. I had a cranberry juice.

The music had a lot more body than most dinner music. As I looked around though, I saw that the dinner crowd was actually listening to the music and pushing the guys for more. They played “What’s Going On?” Which is one of the most played Detroit summer songs. After eating, I just listened to the music and enjoyed.

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Left to right: Charles Greene (keys), Chet (dms) and Ralphe Armstrong

When the guys took another break, I noticed a man on the other side of the restaurant sitting next to two life size dummies. They are almost life like. They look like two older ladies gossiping together. At a glance, through the window, they can look real. He was talking to the dummies, shaking his finger at them and having quite the conversation. I took a picture.

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He turned around …the flash….took a look at me and we both burst out laughing.

Another friend showed up and I decided to go home. It was late and my dog hadn’t been fed. Charles Greene walked me to my car. He makes sure I’m safe. What a gentleman!