Saturday, December 3, 2016

blue sky Bradenton Blues

The first Saturday in December has brought Bradenton the Blues for the last five years - in the form of the Blues Festival.  This was the first year the headliner was not a female and I don't think I would be the only one who had the opinion that this was not a positive thing.  The order from first year through last was Ruthie Foster, Shemekia Copeland, Marcia Ball, and Janiva Magness... this year the women were sorely missed in the line up.

We arrived about 2:30 in time for the gender bending Jason Ricci- whose harmonica was virtuoso - and had a guitar like depth of sound...

The next act was Victor Wainwright- our favorite of the day - just an all around good performer- piano and vocals---

weren't crazy about the next one- nothing horrible just not inspiring-

the headliner- had a mean blues guitar but there was something quite flat about the whole afternoon- maybe because there were no named acts who were female- just a thought...


 the venue is right along the Riverwalk in downtown Bradenton-

so not the best line up we have seen but - who knows what 2017 will bring... the day was beautiful- sunny and blue skies and in the high 70s... a perfect day to sit by the river... tomorrow we are off on a getaway vacay... so I will be off for a week (roughly) but will be back with reports on the changes in Cartagena since I was last there in 2012..... stay tuned...

Friday, December 2, 2016

BB, C & D

So tonight- and yes I am still humming - we heard two terrific symphonies - and one that hurt my ears, it was so awful....

So the C & D of the title were the two terrific performances- Copland (who is a favorite of both Phil's and mine) and New World Symphony (which I was humming all the way home) from Dvorak.

The two (Copland and Dvorak) are among my all time favorite 20th century works. The Copland symphony debuted in 1944 and the Dvorak work was premiered in December 1893 - he had been touring the "New World" to discover "American" music and import its characteristics into his own compositions.  So while not technically 20th century - it was so on the cusp of the 20th and so of the sensibilities of the American landscape that I put in the category.

We knew we loved the two pieces we specifically went to hear, but the horror of the third was new to me... I thought I liked Prokofiev... but not this piece- it was horribly discordant and screechy (I kept thinking the guy's violin was out of tune!)

So overall - an excellent night of music - to be followed by a day of music the BB of the title- the Bradenton Blues Fest- the weather is predictably wonderful as it mostly is in early December and the high should be 81* and mostly sunny to be at the waterfront location on the very wide Manatee River along the Riverwalk for the (I think) fifth year... I know it is our third in a row--- here is the line up...

of course we will need to report back on the BBF- (not to be confused with the SFF LOL) but our weekend of music started off well.

On Sunday we head south - the first leg of a journey further south to Colombia on Monday so plenty to see hear and do around here.... stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Fidel - gone but not forgotten

this quote from a NYT column brought me back to my travels in Cuba- first in early 2012 and then again in December of 2015 almost four years later-

We’ve all been waiting, waiting for this to happen. All of us tethered to Fidel: staying with Fidel or leaving Fidel. Loving Fidel or hating Fidel. In a cab in Istanbul, the driver asked: “Oh, you’re Cuban, what do you think of Fidel?” At a laundry-mat in Chicago: “You’re Cuban? So what’s Fidel really like?” In a classroom in Honolulu: “All I know about Cuba is Fidel.”

My travel buddy Jennifer and I had talked for several years about going to Cuba and when the first OFAC licenses were issued to visit on "people to people" cultural exchanges we immediately signed up for a trip.  The very first ones left in December 2011 and were booked so quickly that the first we could arranged was early April 2012.  They didn't go that frequently because they were still in process with the details and ironing out kinks - American travelers in these kinds of numbers were a new thing to Cuba.

The pull quote I took from the Achy Obejas column went right to the heart of our decision to go as soon as we could- it was Fidel... we wanted to visit when Fidel was still "around."  Of course, even then he had "retired" from the presidency and Raul Castro was "running" things but of course we all wondered how true the "retirement" really was an whether Raul was just Fidel's puppet.

By my second trip to Cuba, things had changed a bit for the travelers- better restaurants (the paladars had multiplied by the dozens - so we no longer ate in only government run restaurants with a special meal at a paladar) we no longer ate in government restaurants. And there seemed to be more upscale hotel choices. But for the people, it wasn't clear how much headway they had made in the four intervening years unless they happened to have opened a paladar or were selling souvenirs on the street or in a shop.  There were virtually no souvenirs except at the "handicraft" market in Habana Viejo when I first went but there were plenty of enterprising folks by the second visit- how fast this growth had come over the four years I had been away I couldn't say.

But to get back to my point- and the columnist's as well, it was Fidel and the spectre of Fidel, and the history of Fidel and his revolution that had drawn us there in the first place.

In preparation for my first trip I had taken an eight week class on Cuba at USF (University of South Florida) and I had quite a bit of context for the things we were told on the trip.  The class was taught by about ten instructors (each with their own field of expertise: politics, art, geography, history, medicine, feminism etc...) and I learned a lot - much of it seemed quite well balanced despite many of the instructors being Cuban-Americans from Florida.

On Fidel's death a friend of mine posted this on Face Book-
"Yeah Castro did some evil shit, but what people don't remember is that his revolution overthrew the corrupt & more heinous Batista dictatorship which was started by a military coup which unseated an elected government. Batista was a pawn of the mafia & USA and worse in every way than Fidel. Now maybe we will lift our immature sanctions and Cuba can move into a democratic renaissance."

And while I may not have been so black & white in my assessment - I found my interactions with everyday Cubans quite enlightening- and I wrote about them extensively in prior blog posts-

these from the 2015 trip-

and these from the 2012 trip-

and these links have a lot of photos about those journeys-



but in the end I think the Achy Obejas' column's penultimate paragraph puts it as well as anyone could- because Fidel is a part of our history- Cubans and Americans both...

Fidel didn’t merely contain multitudes: He took all of our destinies and redesigned them. Who would I be if Fidel’s revolution hadn’t happened and my parents hadn’t left? Who would those who remained on the island be if those of us who left had stayed by their side? Who would any of us be if Fidel hadn’t caused this rupture in our lives?

and  that is saying something....

and the iconic image of Cuba from the American tourist perspective- a collage of photos of cars I saw on the first trip-

so - new adventures coming up - off to Colombia in less than a week- stay tuned...

Sunday, November 27, 2016

an eating odyssey

so it was Thanksgiving weekend-  weekend of eating - yes- we joined in the tradition and kept on eating after the actual holiday and the leftovers the following lunch... LOL-

We also got to go to the beach - it was 77* and sunny on Saturday - the first pic was made by google out of my photo... I think it is a nice emphasis of what I saw- if not 100% true to life...

but to back track to the eating part- LOL here is our meal at indigenous from Friday night- oh by the way we ate outside all weekend long-

both wines showed really well!

the mushroom bisque a MUST try!

the sturgeon tartine - terrific new addition to the menu!

Larry's amberjack with Thai green curry-

Phil's lamb meatball dish

my burger! with duck fat fried potatoes....

Then on Saturday we thought we would swing by Star Fish in Cortez Village and see if there was any space in the lot to park - if so we would go eat dockside--- which we did-

then we went to the beach (photos above) and then came home in time for sunset and then went out to dinner at Harry's on LBK-

the starters- Phil's scallops - Larry's chowder and my onion soup-

Larry's hog fish and Phil's duck and my scallop Rockefeller-

again outside! with some good wines-

By the end of Saturday we were all beyond the stuffed point and so, after Larry headed home to Miami this morning, we had two simple meals at home. And I might have mentioned LOL - we are still in al fresco dining mode... so lunch was outside and dinner too!

This week - final prep for Colombia trip and dinner with CBGB and the Symphony - this time with a favorite - Copland... among other works... keep you posted....