Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Joshua and I are not having an eventful summer, but we did not expect to have one.

I have been very busy at work, bringing work home most nights, and Josh has been working in a Summer Associate job, which he mostly likes.

My boss has been very ill of late, suffering through a series of stressful health issues. He has been out of the office a great deal, which contributes to my heavy workload, and everyone at the office and within his family has been very worried about him.

On weekends, Josh and I have been handling many routine tasks for my boss and his wife, such as maintaining the lawn and cars, helping out with food shopping, housecleaning and laundry, and assuming responsibility for emergencies, such as a recent last-minute purchase of a new refrigerator, which was urgently required.

Everything has been too much for my boss’s wife to handle on her own, and Josh and I have been happy to be able to lend assistance. My boss and his wife have been very good to Josh and me since we arrived in Boston, and we are pleased to return their many favors. My boss and his wife have children, but the children are scattered throughout the country and cannot travel to Boston as often as they would like in order to keep tabs on their parents.

Josh and I will spend Independence Day Weekend in Oklahoma, visiting Josh’s family. Josh’s brother and sister are home for the summer. Josh’s brother is working as an assistant in a veterinarian’s office and Josh’s sister is working as a receptionist/file clerk at a small law firm. They say they are enjoying their summer jobs.

Everyone in my family will be at the lake house from July 3 until July 11, enjoying the traditional week at the lake. I regret that Josh and I will miss the annual week at the lake this year, but there is nothing we can do about the situation.

My niece and nephew, whom Josh and I have not seen since the Christmas holidays, are growing and thriving. According to my mother, my niece can walk like a pro now, and has reached the point at which she freely walks around and explores things, frequently trying to open cabinet doors and cabinet drawers in order to see what’s inside and satisfy her curiosity. My nephew occupies himself with his indoor games and his outdoor games, whether he is at his own home or at my parents’ house, absorbing information like a sponge no matter what the activity. He will not turn five years old for another four months, yet he already knows the alphabet and numbers, and he has moved far beyond puzzle games suitable for most four-year-olds. My brother and my sister-in-law intend to begin sending him to Sunday School in September.

As he has for the last several months, my middle brother travels to Omaha once a month or so to visit his new girlfriend and her parents. No one in my family has met her yet—but no one says anything or asks anything. We are simply waiting for him to inform us when the time is right for us to meet her, that being the genuine signal that he is indeed serious about her.

My father is thinking about retiring in another year or so. He has talked about retiring, on and off, for the last several years, but for the first time I believe he is now serious. My mother very quietly jokes that the summer of 2011 may be filled to the brim with activity: the return of Josh and me from Boston; a possible retirement in the family; a possible wedding in the family; and the final summer before my nephew begins kindergarten.

The dog is happy with his summer. He has already enjoyed a few weekends at the lake this year, and he gets to play with my niece and nephew four or five times a week. That, along with plenty of good food and plenty of naptime, is more than enough to keep him content.


  1. Andrew,

    I think it very commendable that you and Josh are helping out your boss and his family. May your boss recover, molto presto.

    I am happy to learn that the dog has returned safely from Singapore. Or did he ever leave?

    Anton the Anton Lover

  2. My boss is not well. He has lost so much weight that he no longer looks like the same man I first met less than two years ago.

    Rex never made it to Singapore. He had trouble with the Passport Office (he was unable to produce a valid Birth Certificate), and my mother refused to help him. She told Rex he was on his own if he wished to leave the country.

  3. And Rex is starting to show signs of age. He's ten years old now.

    He's taking more daytime and early evening naps than two years ago.

    However, when active, he is still VERY active.

    And he still rules the roost.

  4. Andrew,

    I forgot to ask you about your impressions of Severance Hall itself. You wrote earlier that you thought the Meyerson Center in Dallas was the best concert hall in America, if I recall correctly. I haven't been to the Meyerson Center, but I have been to Severance many times.

    I'm sure you and Josh noticed how far out over the main floor the cantilever of the middle dress circle extends. So contained is the hall that I always feel I'm (almost) looking right down into the orchestra from the first row of this section. It's a close and thrilling sight from this vantage point during any performance.

    You are right about the excellent sartorial taste of the Cleveland Orchestra patrons. I have actually seen one or two "Greatful Dead" t-shirts inside as "prissy" a hall as the Philharmonie (not really THAT prissy, though), but never at Severance and never in the Musikvereinsaal - but maybe I've just been lucky.

    I think most of the Cleveland patrons know what they have and dress well out of sheer respect for the Orchestra.

    Some people believe that the audience there displays TOO much respect, however. There is a blogger there, "Lincoln in Cleveland," who, if I'm not mistaken, complained recently that the Severance audience gave the Cleveland Orchestra too many standing ovations.

    I for one think that an over-enthusiastic audience is a fitting compensation for the Orchestra's comparatively cool reception (generally) among English-speaking, professional critics in the world.


  5. I like Severance.

    It’s small, and the acoustics are on the dry side, but I think it’s a beautiful auditorium.

    I’m not sure what I think of the exterior. It’s an odd exterior, probably because it’s sited on an odd parcel of land. The exterior definitely needs to be cleaned.

    The audience was VERY good. Josh and I should have worn suits and ties. We felt like we were lowering the tone of the evening for almost everyone else (but we would have been overdressed for a typical Boston Symphony audience).

    Meyerson, also small, has the most beautiful interior of any concert hall in the world. The design is magnificent, the materials exquisite, the colors subtle and well-chosen. It is staggeringly beautiful.

    Within the last six months, the Dallas newspaper published a long article by its music critic about the quality of Meyerson’s acoustics, which he insists are the best anywhere (and I would agree, excepting, perhaps, Vienna).

    I cannot understand why so many in Boston rave about Symphony Hall’s acoustics. They certainly are fine, but some of the richness comes at the expense of clarity.

    Of course, I also do not understand why so many rave about Carnegie Hall’s acoustics. My father says that the acoustics of Carnegie Hall were ruined during one of the renovations—but I do not recall whether he means the 1980’s renovations or the 1990’s renovations. He insists that Carnegie Hall sounds nothing today like it sounded in the 1970’s.

    Have you seen the new construction at the Cleveland Museum Of Art? I sort of like the new, striped building.

    Have you been to Cleveland since the museum added the Charles Meynier paintings?

  6. And—I must ask you—what do you think of the guy appointed as Philadelphia’s new conductor?

    I have never heard him—and no one whose opinion I respect has heard him, either.

  7. I am more ignorant about Philadelphia's new music director than you, Andrew (I have forgotten his name at this moment). I have never even heard OF him.

    But, hey, he's young and "full of energy," and that's all you need to be a high-profile conductor in today's world, right? Alex Ross will drool all over him, no doubt, putting him way up there along side what's-his-face in Minnesota as a conductor that "Furtwaengler would respect."

    I haven't been to the Cleveland Museum of Art since 2000, Andrew, the same year Severance was renovated. I haven't seen the new wings, therefore, but they seem attractive in the photos.

    I love the Cleveland Museum of Art. Name any other place on earth where one can just stroll through a door - in this case the 1916 Wade Lagoon building - without parting from a single penny, and then lose himself (see how politically correct I am?) in the company of such treasures in the European galleries alone - and THEN, walk across the street to hear the most glorious ensemble on earth, paying for it 1/5th of the ticket price that Europeans dish out every summer when the same Orchestra comes to town?

    Among my favorite paintings in the Cleveland Museum of Art are two Goya's, the first created before the French occupation and the second either during or after the war. The first is a large canvas showing a member of the Royal family in breath-taking satin garb, with a not-so-breathtaking face; the second is of a common man sitting in a common man's chair, with not a sign of the baroque anywhere. I hope that the Museum continued to display these two items side-by-side when you and Josh were there so that they could be seen together.

    I also love the Greek and Roman sculpture holdings, probably still unavailable when you and Josh were there.

    I always felt that the modern art galleries were wanting at the Cleveland Museum of Art; since I am not particularly interested in process art, I am not impressed with the pieces you can see on-line.

    I thought it was interesting how Steve Litt, the art critic for the Plain Dealer, made a big deal of the fact that the Museum is the home of Salvadore Dali's "The Dream," the only major Dali the Museum has at the moment.

    I confess, Andrew, that I loathe Dali. Dali hardly had a peer during the 20th century who could match his mastery of technique. But I can name only two paintings he ever did that I myself can gaze at for more than a few minutes: "Premonition of Civil War: Soft Construction with Boiled Beans" (1937), and "Tuna fishing" (1968), probably his best work, though hardly as famous as "the Persistence of Memory" (1931).

    The best thing that I can say about "The Dream" is that it is not nearly as offensive, I suppose, as the bulk of his work, which I regard as the product of a serious degenerate, a discusting human being who is as deserving of burning in hell as Lilian Helman.

    The absence of a noteworthy Dali collection at the Cleveland Museum of Art is no accident, as you know. Curator Sherman Lee refused to accept the large Dali collection offered to him by a private collector in Beachwood, Ohio. This same collection is located today less than two hours away from my doorstep, in Tampa, though I have never wasted my time to go and see it. The OFFICIAL reason why Lee rejected the Beachwood Dali's is that he claimed the Museum didn't have the space at the time to display them. The REAL reason, however, was that Lee positively and rightly hated Dali's work.

    I am glad.

    I think your father probably hated both renovations of Carnegie Hall because both were disasterous, though the first was surely more disasterous than the last. The sound of Carnegie lost its signature because they plugged up, both times, the open ceiling over the stage.

    I agree that the Musikverein is the most beautiful acoustic in the world. It has boom, warmth AND clarity.

    Don't work too hard this weekend - both of you.


  8. Some more fav pictures at the Cleveland Museum of Art that Blogger would not let me include in the last comment: Monet's "Water Lilies," which was vandalized at some point; a lovely cloud-burst work by Church; a huge canvas showing Noah and his family staring out over the post-diluvian, new world; "Stag at Sharkey's," of course; one of Pollock's better abstracts ....

    The museum did not have a major Miro on my last visit. They had one lesser, sister creation of the more famous "Man and Woman in front of a Pile of Excrement," both part of a stylistcally similar suite of OPERA (my non-italics) from the thirties, all oil-on-copper compositions.

    I would love to hang a repro of that latter picture in my bathroom.

    The music critic of the Dallas paper, by the way, is one of the few American critics that I respect. He isn't afraid to call a spade a spade; he has, apparently, no politically correct agenda. He was the only critic to write the truth about Simon Rattle's Berlin Philharmonic when they played Brahms at Carnegie.

    I laughed my head off, Andrew, when I read Andrew Patner's review of the same program in Chicago: He knew what he had heard was not good and he tried mightily, though unsuccessfully in my opinion, to put a positive spin on the Philharmonic's dreadful ensemble.


  9. Joshua is writing about Monet’s Cleveland “Water Lilies” right now, if you can believe it. He started writing about it very early this morning, and then he had to stop, as we had to go over to my boss's house. The Monet was Josh’s single favorite artwork at the Cleveland museum. The painting is overwhelming. On first impression, the painting appears to be violet but, upon examination, one can see that almost the entire canvas is painted in shades of green.

    I recall only one Goya on display in Cleveland, and it did not make much of an impression on me. There very definitely were NOT two Goya paintings on display.

    For me, the most amazing painting in Cleveland was a very atypical Lucas Cranach The Elder painting of a Saxon hunting scene. I have seen nothing like it elsewhere, not even in Germany, and I always pay serious attention to Cranach paintings. It was hung in the large gallery devoted to armor, which was an impressive space.

    I have never taken Dali seriously. For me, his work is utter kitsch. The single time I was in Tampa/Saint Petersburg, I visited the Saint Petersburg Museum Of Art but gave the Dali Museum a wide pass (and I had no idea that the Dali works in Florida had first been offered to Cleveland).

    The Cleveland galleries for antiquities and pre-High Renaissance art were not yet open over Memorial Day Weekend. If those galleries have not since opened, they are due to open very soon.

    Josh and I found the Charles Meynier “Muse” paintings to be dazzling. They are splendidly displayed—with a great Canova “Muse” sculpture in the same room—and the paintings should have received significant attention in the national art press when they were first unveiled, as the paintings are unique in all the world. American art critics clearly have no fondness for French Neo-Classicism, because the domestic art press took very little notice when the Meynier paintings first went on display.

    The reordered museum in Cleveland devotes far too much space to porcelain, glassware and furniture, much of which is entirely unremarkable and very little of which is first- or even second-rate. I never saw so much third- and fourth-rate porcelain, glassware and furniture in my life.