Saturday, October 10, 2009

Bury me not...oh...okay...bury me.

There are so many reasons why I love Baltimore.

It's where I met Leopold.

It plays host to the Visionary Art Museum - one of the most undeservedly uncelebrated museum spaces in the entire Mid Atlantic. Seriously. If you're ever anywhere near Charm City you need to pay a visit.

There's the Baltimore Opera where I saw my first opera ever...and discovered that I actually really, like opera. Baltimore Opera audiences aren't all that different from the crowd at a baseball game. They're there to have a good time, see their friends and make sure that everyone else is enjoying themselves.

And then we get to the bar list (1) and that means it's time to get to my point.

The good people of Baltimore are once again earning their John Waters-fueled reputation as the Savannah of the north by holding a funeral for Edgar Allan Poe this weekend.

Yes. That Edgar Allan Poe. The author who died 160 years ago.

If you're not familiar with the circumstances surrounding Poe's death it sounds very much like something he would have written.

Poe returned to Baltimore from Richmond where he was discovered delirious and incoherent outside a tavern. He died shortly after and what had taken place was never determined.

Add a cousin who hid the death from the public, a quick, silent funeral, a runaway train (2), and a not-so-flattering obituary written by Rufus Griswold and you have the grim exit of the author who gave us The Raven and The Tell-Tale Heart.

Events include an exhibition at the Baltimore Museum of Art, a horse-drawn carriage which will carry the "body" through the city, and a funeral service that will include actors playing individuals from Poe's life...including Griswold.

Note to the future: If there is ever any reason to hold a second funeral for me let's agree that we won't invite people who wrote really bad things about me the first time around.

Agreed?

1. Owl Bar!
2. Really.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Raindrops on rockers and cat's eyes on punkers...

Leopold and I are in Canada...Toronto to be exact.

As the three folks who read this blog know, I love it up here.

It's been almost 15 years since I was last in Toronto so it's a city I don't know a lot about. The bride's family (1) has armed us all with guides and maps and lists and I've already started to put together an itinerary.

Top on the list is a trip to the Toronto outpost of Nicholas Hoare Books. My first visit to Nicholas Hoare was during a trip to Ottawa and it was love at first sight. The stores are beautifully designed, the selection of books offbeat and gorgeous, and the staff incredibly knowledgeable.

It's one of those amazing bookshops that actually devotes its attention to...wait for it...books.

I know. Wacky Canadians.

1. We're here for a friend's wedding. Leopold has actually written a special wedding march for the event.

From far and wide, O Canada

Amazombie wants you to know that folks are flocking from all over to pick up their handy-dandy bringer of hardcover doom, The Kindle.

Oh, except for the good citizens of Canada.

Seems that an issue with establishing a wireless agreement is putting some sticky in the wicket north of the border (1).

While this is actually not a new development for all those sons and daughters filled with true patriot love - there was a similar hold up with smart phones - I'm particularly fond of some of the comments showing up on The Globe and Mail's Web version of the story.

Like this one from poster UHF: "I am shocked, shocked to learn that we can't get the Kindle in Canada. That means we are cut off from a supply of already overpriced books, marked up another 20% plus the 2% the credit card companies charge on US transactions, plus the exchange on the US dollar. How dare they? To the barricades!"

Barricades?

I thought we just built those along the Mexican border.

1. Though, as I'm actually writing this in Canada I guess I should say, "Here."

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Hunger Pains

Gourmet magazine is closing its doors.

This is kind of tragic.

Gourmet is really the lit lovers food mag.

It offers a monthly Cook Book Club, it's edited by Ruth Reichl (1), and the writing is thoughtful, poignant and reads like the most lovely collection of short stories.

Consider this bit from writer Colman Andrews: "The house I grew up in had a full-size semicircular wet bar, complete with leather barstools, and when my parents gave a dinner party, back in the 1950s, they hired a bartender from some local restaurant and the invitations always specified something like 'Cocktails at 6:30, Dinner at 8.' Cocktails meant Martinis, Manhattans, daiquiris, assorted highballs."

And all this is not even mentioning Jane and Michael Stern's "Road Food" column.

1. Whose memoirs are some of my absolute favorites.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Freedom (to have) Fries

Word on the street is that some folks are a little miffed that McDonald's is planning to set up shop in two locations in close proximity to the entrance of Paris's Louvre entrance.

On a certain level I can understand this. The capital "R" Romantic level. The level where the Louvre is the sacred space for the preservation of art and the exhibition of those items that came into being when great creative minds put their attention to the idea of creation and not senseless destruction.

But then I read this in The Telegraph. The quote is from Didier Rykner, head of the Art Tribune Web site: "'I'm not against eating in a museum but McDonald's is hardly the height of gastronomy,' he said, adding that it was a worrying mixture of art and art and consumerism. 'Today McDonald's, tomorrow low-cost clothes shops,' he said."

An art historian working at the Louvre is also quoted as saying: "'This is the last straw... This is the pinnacle of exhausting consumerism...'"

Because, without McDonald's, art would be free from the wicked evils of "exhausting consumerism?"

I'm assuming that this is ignoring the $137.5M paid in a 2006 private sale of one of Willem de Koonings paintings?

Or the $71.7M paid by an anonymous buyer for one of Andy Warhol's Green Car Crash (Green Burning Car I) in 2007?

Or the $200M artist Damien Hirst generated from a two-day Sotheby's auction of his works.

Or, to get down to the brass tacks, how about that $20USD entrance fee anonymous Louvre historian? Too consumerist for you?

In case you were wondering (1), the folks at the Louvre might still be smarting from a failed attempt to block Starbuck's from setting up shop nearby.

Bets on how long before that anonymous historian is caught with a pocketbook full of McRibs?

1. Though why would you?