Thursday, September 30, 2021

The Billionaire's Museum (Part Two)

Several weeks have passed since I returned from Mexico, and I told you that I had several more posts to publish about that trip.  Well, I better get on that, because before you know it, in just 15 days, I will be returning to Mexico!

We left off at the Soumaya Museum, built by Carlos Slim, the richest man in Mexico, to house his art collection.

You may remember that I was rather critical of the collection and the way it is presented. It has been said that Slim's collection puts quantity over quality, and that the museum contains a lot of second rate art by first rate artists.  With his vast fortune he could have acquired a collection of masterpieces.  Instead he looked for bargains.  Why buy one superb Van Gogh, when you can get a couple lesser works by the same artist for less money? 

Continuing down the circular ramp, the next gallery is devoted to European art "from Impressionism to the Avant Garde".  These landscapes by Monet and Renoir are nice, but not representative of their best work...

"Landscape at Port Villez" by Claude Monet

"A Street in Essayes" by Pierre August Renoir

These two early paintings by Van Gogh are nothing like the vibrantly colorful works that we know and love.

"After the Storm" by Vincent Van Gogh

"Cabin with a Peasant Coming Back Home" by Vincent Van Gogh

There are perhaps a couple dozen works by Kahlil Gibran (whom I always thought of as a writer, not a painter).  Most of them are all similar portraits of women.  Does he really merit that many repetitious paintings?

The next gallery is devoted to the "Old Masters".  This painting of the crucifixion by El Greco is very similar to one in the Cleveland Museum of Art, but I think the one in Cleveland is better.

This "Mother and Child" is by Botticelli.  I don't pretend to be an expert on Renaissance art, but this does not strike me as being one of his best works.  The Madonna's face seems a little "off".

There are quite a few painting that are labeled "attributed to...", "from the workshop of..." by a follower of..." or by that prolific painter "anonymous".  At first glance this looks like a Da Vinci, but it is by "the workshop or a follower of Da Vinci".

Continuing down the ramp, the next gallery contains a collection of sculptures in ivory.  Although the work is exquisite, it is rather sad to think of the elephants that died, especially since the majority of the sculptures were done in the 20th century.

The final gallery is a "catch all" with antique record players, telephones, pocket watches and clothing.

I'm sorry if I sound like an art snob.  The good thing is that admission to the museum is free, so that it is accessible to everyone... even if it is far from a world-class collection.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

At Long Last

 You may remember that earlier this year, I had hired a landscaping company to redo my front yard.  They removed the rotten landscape timbers and the path of pavers that ran across the front of my house.  One of their workers from Mexico, Raymundo, did meticulous work putting in a faux stone border where the old timbers were, and he laid a new walkway of pavers.  I was extremely happy with his work. 

They also tore up my lawn (which was in terrible shape) in preparation for laying down sod.  This project began in May.  Although Raymundo completed the border and walkway, I went through the entire summer without a lawn in front of my house.  Well, it wasn't all bare dirt.  In some areas large patches of crabgrass and other assorted weeds appeared.  Like so many contractors, they had taken on too many jobs and had too few workers.  

When I returned from Mexico in September, I still had no lawn after more than four months.  I was running short on patience, and left a couple of irritated messages.  "I want a lawn!!!"  If I had not paid a hefty deposit for the materials, I would have probably told them to forget it, and I would have hired someone else.  Of course I might have very well encountered the same snail's pace with a another landscaper.

Finally on Monday, hallelujah, the workers arrived.  Of course they had to prepare the soil all over again.  Yesterday afternoon they returned with a truckload of sod, and laid down about two thirds of the lawn.

Today they returned and laid the last of the sod.  It looks a bit like a patchwork quilt until it becomes established, but I now have the greenest lawn on the street.  

At long last I have a lawn!

Tuesday, September 28, 2021


Last Saturday, in the early evening, I went to Lakewood, a Cleveland suburb located about a half hour from where I live.

My destination was Lakewood Park, the largest and most attractive of that city's parks.  It is located along the shore of Lake Erie, and the promenade along the lake offers beautiful views.  People who don't live in this part of the country often don't realize how big the Great Lakes, the world's largest bodies of fresh water, are.  When my cousins from England visited me some years ago, they kept referring to Lake Erie as "the sea".  About fifty miles away, on the other side of the lake, is Canada.

At one end of the park, there is a view to the east of downtown Cleveland.

At the other end of the park rising above the lake is a curving series of terraced steps called the Solstice Steps.  

It is one of the best places in the area to watch the sun set over Lake Erie.  And that is just what I did...

Monday, September 27, 2021

Riding the Merry-Go-Round


Last week I got together for lunch with my sister-in-law Phyllis and her husband Jim.  Since they live in Columbus, we met in Mansfield, Ohio, which is about half way down the interstate between Cleveland and Columbus.

After our lunch we walked a block to Richland Carrousel Park.  The pavilion in the park houses the first new, hand carved carrousel to be built and operated in the United States since the 1930s.  Opened in 1991, it is the centerpiece for the redevelopment and restoration of downtown Mansfield.


The carrousel features 52 figures (30 horses and 22 menagerie figures) which were carved in the style of G. A. Dentzel, one of the most prominent carvers of the early 1900s.  Antique decorative panels and mirrors were restored for the merry-go-round.  

Of course we had to ride the carrousel.  Tickets are $1.

Friday, September 24, 2021

A Milestone Birthday


If you have followed my blog through the years, you might remember my friend Irma.  (One of my trips to Mexico actually coincided with one of her trips to her hometown of Jalapa. Alejandro and I drove from Mexico City to Jalapa one weekend to visit her there.  Here is a post that I wrote when we took that excursion.)  

Irma is one of my oldest friends... and I mean that not just in terms of age, but in the number of years that I have known her.  I met Irma in 1970 as a student at Baldwin Wallace College in Berea, Ohio.  She was born and raised in Mexico, and came to live in the United States when she married one of my Spanish professors.  She frequently welcomed the Spanish students into their home for get togethers.  Later, during my junior year of college, I studied in Mexico, and I took a trip to Jalapa where I met her father, brother, aunts, and other members of her family.  After college, on my summer vacations in Mexico, I frequently included Jalapa in my itinerary in order to visit Irma's family.

Irma, still lives in Berea, Ohio, just minutes away from my house.  She has three children, one of whom also lives in Berea.  Shortly before my most recent trip to Mexico, I received an invitation from her sons to a birthday party to celebrate her 90th birthday.  Fortunately the event was scheduled for a date after my return.

You might remember that I wrote a post about a month ago about my visit to one of the handicraft markets in Mexico City.  I said that the main purpose of the trip was to buy a birthday present for Irma's party.  Of course, I did not mention what I bought, in case she read my blog.  Irma for a long time has collected nativity scenes, and on my travels to different countries I have bought her more for the collection.  I went to the handicraft market with the intention of buying something that (fingers crossed) that she did not have.  The Huichol tribe of western Mexico make objects intricately covered with colored beads, and in one of the market stalls I found a Huichol nativity scene.  (Unfortunately, I did not take a photo of it.)

Last weekend was the big birthday party with many of her friends in attendance.  It was a wonderful celebration of sweet, loving woman whom I have the privilege of calling my friend.  (And she did not already have a Huichol nativity scene in her collection!)

  Irma with two of her grandchildren and her birthday cake

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

At the Falls

Last year during the pandemic, when I was visiting numerous local parks, I posted pictures of several small waterfalls in the area.  However, I do not believe that I have ever posted pictures of one of the prettiest falls in Northeast Ohio... Brandywine Falls.

Last week I visited Carol, a good friend and former teaching colleague.  After lunch we went to Brandywine Falls, which are located a short drive from her house.  The falls are within the Cuyahoga Valley National Park along Brandywine Creek.  The 60 foot high cascade is accessible via a wooden boardwalk. 

In the early 19th century the falls were used as a source of water power.  In 1814 the village of Brandywine, one of the earliest settlements in the Cuyahoga Valley, was founded by George Wallace.  He and his sons built a sawmill, gristmill, a woolen mill and a whiskey distillery here.  For thirty years the village prospered, but eventually it was left behind with construction of canals and then railroads.  Nothing of the village remains except for a few hidden foundations and a restored house which is now a bed and breakfast.

Here are some photos and videos of the falls from different perspectives along the boardwalk.


Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Sidewalk Art

As I wrote in my previous post, I visited the special exhibit at the Cleveland Museum of Art last week.  Afterwards, I walked around the building to the gardens in the front.  There must have been an outdoor activity the weekend before in which people could do chalk drawings on the sidewalks.  We had not had any rain, so most of the drawings were still in good shape.  Some of the drawings were the scribblings of small children, but there were also some that were done by people with obvious artistic talent... or even professional artists.

(I later checked online, and, yes, indeed, on Saturday, September 11th, the museum had hosted its 32nd annual Chalk Festival.) 

I have to admit that walking through the garden, looking at the drawings on the sidewalk, was as interesting as the exhibit inside the museum.