Saturday, December 25, 2010


No, that’s not this year’s beachwear in the Hamptons, but it is de rigeur in the Sahara.  We spent two terrific weeks in Morocco last March, on a walking tour that covered Casablanca (there are as many Rick’s Caf├ęs there as there are Original Ray’s Pizza parlors in New York), Fez, Ourzazate, Marrakesh, the Atlas mountains and of course, the desert (spent a night in a tent, and Dick got to jam on drums with the Berbers).   We made lifelong friends whose names we have already forgotten – or never knew, like this guy.

Other trips:  the annual pilgrimage to Utila, the gem of the Caribbean, to visit to the kids, where we participated in a variety of activities above and below the water – diving, picnicking on Water Key, drinking with 30-somethings in ramshackle bars.  Nice to trade New York taxis for water taxis for a few weeks each year, though the drivers are, if anything, even more reckless:

And of course, like many little boys, Maxim is fascinated by airplanes, and has a large collection of model and toy aircraft.  Not too many 3-year-olds, however, get to fly real ones:

Then there was Las Vegas in November, where DEMA – the SCUBA convention that Benoit attends every year – was held, and where we spent a lot of time gawking like the tourists we were at the Strip.  Here’s Maxim (who loves hotels) contemplating Steve Wynn’s latest from the monorail. . . .

. . . and even more fun, having room-service breakfast with Papa.

(Nancy made a video of the Las Vegas sojourn which can be viewed on YouTube at:

The big news, though, is that Danielle is expecting a daughter next March.  She and Ben have a name picked out but they won’t tell us.  And, as if another baby wasn’t enough life-change for one year, they’re building a house, which has been said by many of their friends (who hope to freeload meals) to be the nicest on the island:.  As you can see below, it’s almost finished.  It will have a thoughtfully-designed soundproof room for grandparents, though we don’t know why the door locks from the outside.  Here’s an aerial view:

Danielle puts the finishing touches to the porch:

Everything else remains pretty much the same:  Nancy is still potting, and enjoying a certain vogue among fanciers of bowl and vase; Dick is still teaching at NYU, and just has finished one of his most satisfying semesters ever.  In short, life is good. Plans for 2011 include a trip to Utila in March for the birth of our granddaughter and a possible African sojourn next winter.

So, from all of us to all of you, here’s to a great 2011!

Nancy, Dick, Danielle,Benoit and  

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Some years ago, my godmother Wanda gave me and Nancy a pair of antique chairs she had no further use for.  (That was always her rationale for gift-giving; her high-school graduation present to Danielle was a used Rolex that was appraised at $400 and cost $500 to recondition.)

These chairs, spindly and often mended, were never my favorite pieces of furniture, but we needed them in our NY apartment, so that's where they ended up -- until last night.  Our friend Michael Rosenthal (pictured above) came to dinner, to cheer up Nancy (who was on crutches due to a bunionectomy she had just endured) and me (who had just lost 12 straight games of squash to him).  We were eating Chinese takeout.  I was sitting in one of Wanda's Chairs.  I leaned back slightly and with a startling report, the horizontal strut across the back splintered and dropped to the floor.

I couldn't meet Nancy's gaze for some time, though Michael's laughter was clearly audible.  But instead of justifiably reproaching my famous clumsiness, Nancy laughed too.  "Oh, well," she said.  "I never loved that chair."

Twenty minutes later, Nancy labored to her feet and seized her crutches.  For the first time, they failed her; she toppled backward.  Michael sprang catlike to his feet, caught her, and they both sat heavily on Wanda's Other Chair.  Crack!  The whole back snapped off.  Michael was aghast, but we reassured him:  what good was one chair of a matched set?  And anyway, he was clearly the agent of fate.  I shlepped the remains of both to the basement, leaving the staff to deal with them, and somehow, it felt as if a burden had been lifted from us.


My grandmother Yetta came to Saskatchewan from Odessa over a hundred years ago, speaking not a word of (what the Canadians call) English.  She eventually learned English, imperfectly, a rough-and-ready, heavily accented speech that enabled her communicate with the taciturn farmers who were her neighbors and later on, when she and my grandfather retired to Vancouver, the more cosmopolitan types whom she encountered.  But as she aged, her English left her.   She remembered her Russian perfectly, but at the end, she could neither speak to nor understand her children or grandchildren.

Similarly, my Volkswagen was born in Germany and emigrated to this country in 2003.  At the time, its various displays spoke English flawlessly.  But lately, as it's aging, the same process that made my bubbi revert to her native tongue seems to be taking place.  It's a European car now.  The readout above was in Fahrenheit until last week,