2021 Highlights

2021 was another doozy of a pandemic year.  Pandemic year 2 started off well, Stump having being turned out decisively in November and vaccines against coronavirus being approved for emergency use just before 2020 ended. We made it through the year without falling ill, although the advent of Omicron at the end of 2021 dramatically increased the likelihood of being infected.  We did the best we could, adapting to a constantly changing world and travel regulations and even managed to make it abroad (Enfin, Paris!) during a fall lull in the waxing and waning of Covid.

2021 by the numbers, bests and worsts:

Number of international trips cancelled: 2 (Philippines dive trip in summer, rescheduled for 2024 and South Georgia, Falklands and Antarctica, cancelled).

Number of California National Parks rediscovered: 2 (Yosemite and Death Valley, both after almost 20 years)

Months coronavirus threats kept us away from New York: 16 months, from November 2019 until March 2021.

Best decision:  To go on retirement “sunset” track.  We gave 6 months notice and it will start March 2022, working halftime for Steve (50%) and 60% for me.

Number of dives: 0

The worst: Working in a modern medical center during a ransomware emergency.

Best “discovery” (thanks to Michele): the Libby app, which enabled me to “read” (listen) to 3 times as many books, electronic and audio, as before, checked out from the library.

Best book:  Lisa See’s On Gold Mountain, a fascinating multi-generational history of her Chinese-American family.

Favorite new author:  Colson Whitehead.  In addition to watching the adaptation for TV of The Underground Railroad (which I previously read with my book club), I read Harlem Shuffle (another book club selection), followed by The Nickel Boys and Sag Harbor.  His genre versatility, ear for dialogue and eye for detail are astounding.

January

By any standard, January 2021 was an eventful month, particularly for the country.  The coronavirus pandemic was peaking, with our hospital census mounting to horrifying numbers, before ebbing in the latter half of the month.  The storming of the capital on January 6 was a shocking and horrifying assault on the very foundations of democracy, leading to a historic second impeachment of the deposed Stump.  We were occupied with paperwork for the new New York apartment purchase, having finalized the contract just before New Year’s.  During the weekends, we exploited our e-mountain bike’s capabilities to explore trails and climb hills and entertained ourselves in the evening working our way through the New York Time’s film critics’ Top 10 of 2020 lists.  Our overall favorite was Kelly Reichert’s First Cow, set in frontier times of 1800s hardscrabble Oregon.  By the end of the month, we both were fully vaccinated after 2 shots of Pfizer’s m-RNA vaccine.

February

Western grebes “rush” on water in short bursts, a flurry of amorous activity, at Lake Hodges.

We finally made it out onto Lake Hodges to see the grebes “rushing”, where they sprint on water in short bursts, apparently a mating display.  In January, we’d made a few attempts to photograph this phenomenon from the shore, but it was a much more satisfying outing going out on a boat with Brian Caldwell, who lives in the neighborhood and knows its avian population.  We continued mountain biking on the weekends, with the e-bikes making mincement of Daley Ranch’s hills and enabling us to explore the Coast to Crest trail system more widely.

The Sedona Film Festival was postponed to June this year, freeing us up for a week devoted for the past 10 years to it.  Having February 21 off turned my thoughts to Yosemite and the elusive firefall phenomenon, which was first documented (in color) by famed nature photographer Galen Rowell, with whom we did a seminar back in the 1990s.  This is a fleeting event, dependent on a convergence of the right conditions: enough winter snowfall and warm enough following temperatures for Horsetail Falls to run, the sun angle occurring twice a year striking the falls at sunset and a sunset free of obscuring clouds.  The peak usually is February 21, plus and minus a few days.  Complicating the planning this year was the ongoing pandemic and limitations on the number of visitors to Yosemite, requiring either advance day reservations or confirmed lodging inside the park.  We lucked out with 3 consecutive nights at the Ahwanhee beginning February 21.  To maximize our time there, we drove up on Saturday as far as Chateau de Sureau, 1.5 hours closer, a comfortable Relais et Chateaux landing after the day’s drive.

We were fortunate in that the necessary conditions were all fulfilled this year.  It had been nearly 20 years since our last trip to Yosemite and although we missed winter wonderland conditions by a few weeks, it was a delight to again be enclosed by the tall granite walls of the magical valley.

The elusive firefall phenomenon in Yosemite occurs just before sunset around February 21 in years in which there has been enough snowfall and snowmelt for Horsetail Falls to run.

Early and cold winter morning on the Merced River in Yosemite Valley.

Late afternoon light over the Merced River in Yosemite Valley, looking away from firefall.

Mirror Lake panorama, a nice short hike from the Ahwahnee.

March

This time last year, the world came to a halt.  Traffic slowed, elective procedures were postponed, restaurants pivoted to outdoor dining and take-out, bars shut down, the lights on Broadway dimmed.  Last year’s big birthday was a big bust, laid out with the flu, exhausted, tachycardic, non-stop chills.  The pandemic became very real to us this time last year, as we considered whether I qualified to be tested for Covid (I didn’t meet the criteria).  Only a fit of coughing by Steve, at the cardiology check-in desk, led to testing (for him), establishing a diagnosis of influenza A for him and a probable diagnosis for me (we had the same symptoms, a few days apart).

This year, I had the whole week off.  The prior week saw us running up the Audi Q5’s mileage, driving to Yosemite for the firefall phenomenon.  From there, we revisited Death Valley.  It had been nearly 20 years-since 2002-since we had been to either one of them.

 

The incomparable view from Zabriskie Point in Death Valley, in the glow of late afternoon.

Zabriskie Point is also worth getting up in the chill of an early winter morning.

Note to self: Don’t let another 20 years pass before revisiting Death Valley! The dunes alone are reason enough to visit.

Death Valley, early morning dune abstract.

Another reason to visit Death Valley: Ubehebe Crater, a type of Maar volcano, formed by volcanic steam explosion, resulting when magma, in contact with ground water, flash heats the water, giving rise to steam which ultimately blows through the overlying crust.

 

Steve made some beautiful black and white abstracts from the dunes. The one below was featured in the Duncan Miller virtual gallery.

A second week was spent relaxing in Sedona. I attended CureMetrix-related meetings remotely.  I took my actual birthday completely off.  Steve cooked up a brunch feast, scrambling eggs and incorporating rounds of panko-coated eggplant left over from his famous paninis.  The plates were colorfully festooned with strawberries and cherry tomatoes.  We decided to try a hike we’d never done, up the east wall of Oak Creek Canyon to Thomas Point.  It was a steep, nearly 1000 feet climb, through a cover of conifers that emerges into a scrubbier, cactus-studded stony escarpment.  The final plateau is again shaded and if continued, would eventually trace an early wagon and cart route to Flagstaff.

Driving back south through the Canyon, we made an excursion to a popular and famous Sedona destination we hadn’t visited since our first trip in the 1990s with Steve’s parents, Slide Rock State Park. Steve wanted to try out the smooth water technique of his new Iphone.  I put the built in 3-stop neutral density filter of the Fujifilm X100-F to use, with a miniature tripod.

Late afternoon glow lights up the rocks at Slide Rock State Park.

At the end of March, we made it back to New York, for our first trip since the start of the pandemic.  It had been 16 months since we locked the doors of the apartment in November 2019, expecting to return in March 2020.  Well, you know what happened then…the world was turned sideways off its axis by the coronavirus. Broadway was still dark, but we found plenty to do, connecting with new and old friends and visiting less crowded than usual museums.  Sarah and Aaron introduced us to Woodlawn Cemetery, a peaceful place where many of New York’s notables were laid to their eternal rest, their lives represented by statuary and elaborate mausoleums reflecting their stature during mortal life.

March 2021, Fifth Avenue, New York. The still bare trees created a graphic display of shadows.

April showers in the Conservancy Garden in Central Park were no deterrent to these lovers.

The disruption in air travel services (regular non-stops between San Diego and New York were not available, at least on American, for many months of the pandemic) offered a silver lining for us.  Faced with having to get up early to make the only feasible Sunday morning non-stop, we decided now was the time to do something we had always wanted to do: stay at the refurbished TWA hotel by Eero Saarinen, an iconic mid-century structure we’d admired for years.

A wonderful overnight interlude for mid-century architecture buffs, staying in the refurbished TWA Hotel, designed by Eero Saarinen.

April-May

A hike above our Grand Canyon camp at Cardenas, near Unkar rapid, the only hike we did I would characterize as “easy”.

 

For much of April, most of my focus was on preparing for my upcoming Grand Canyon Colorado river rafting trip at the end of the month.  When I signed up, there were special waterproof duffel bags to order, as well as carabiners and water bottles.  The hardest part of preparing for this epic photographic adventure was deciding which and how many camera systems to bring and how to keep them going for 10 days without access to power. Ultimately, I supplemented my Fujifilm XT-4 system (with 2 lenses) with 3 small alternatives, one borrowed from Greg (a tiny Sony RX100VI for which he had 6 batteries and a miniature filter system). We already had a tiny, waterproof Olympus TG-6.  I added a Go-Pro Hero 9 to the mix.  All of these new and unfamiliar systems meant I spent a lot of time on YouTube in the weeks before the trip to get up to speed with them.

A magical combination: the quiet of Grand Canyon, the Milky Way overhead, a slice of moon starting to light one side of the Canyon.

The trip itself, my longest camping trip ever (by far), was a blast, well organized by Adam Schallau and his wife Sally.  Our Tour West guides, Buggs (John), Kyle, Jake and Jake, were a fun, experienced and knowledgable bunch who inspired confidence. Our group was cohesive and cooperative and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  Side hikes revealed beautiful formations and waterfalls and after dinner, the stars glittered overhead in a stunning display. I put all of those camera systems to good use, enough for 3 blog posts, here.  Here are some of my favorites from this trip.

A magical side hike in Grand Canyon, Elves Chasm, was a highlight for me.

Joe (aka Pepito) is dwarfed by the towering walls of Blacktail Canyon in Grand Canyon.

Lush ferns and cool water at Deer Creek Falls in Grand Canyon.

Lush vegetation and cool water at Deer Creek Falls in Grand Canyon.

A strange and inadvertent self-portrait resulting from my search for the bathroom in the dark: I set up this 30 minute exposure on one side of camp, then walked back to my camp to pick up my toothbrush, which I carried down to the water’s edge to use, then tramped through the brush to the other side of camp with lights (sometimes red, sometimes white), trying to relocate the Groover in the dark.

 

I had been surprised Steve had declined a chance to go on this trip (I claimed the last spot when Covid prevented a Swiss return client from coming to the US, but the organizers had been willing to add a place for Steve).  He had other ideas for how to spend 2 vacation weeks in the Southwest and he put them to good use, exploring remote parts of Utah by drone, camera,  mountain bike and car.

Steve put the drone to good use in depicting Factory Butte in Utah while I was in Grand Canyon.

He also further unlocked the secrets of the Bisti Badlands in northwest New Mexico.

Bisti Badland beauty from Steve’s solo exploratory journey with mountain bike, camera, car and drone.

Our post-vacation glow was abruptly truncated as soon as we regained signal once I emerged from the Canyon.  A cyber attack brought our hospital system to its knees while we were off, forcing our IS teams to take all systems offline.  The radiologists who were working when it first happened had to read off the consoles of individual modalities, the PACS and RIS systems and EPIC being off-line. We missed the worst, first week, but the 2.5 weeks we did experience were bad enough.  At least the PACS was mostly available by the time we returned. We were so slowed by reverting to paper and fax that we had to staff the hospitals in-house, 24/7.

June-July

Calendar entries taunted me with reminders of more Covid-derailed plans: Atlantis Azores, Dumaguete.  Our Philippines dive trip was cancelled relatively late, in mid-April.  By that time, the trajectory was clear, we were just waiting for the official word.  Being freed up in the summer with a full 2 weeks off opened up other possibilities.  We decided on a return trip to the Methow Valley for a long weekend to visit Dave, Rasa and Gedi, with the rest of the time in New York, including a side trip to the Berkshires.  Covid had canceled last May’s plan to visit the Wieners in the Berkshires and attend some of the Berkshires Film Festival.

Dave was already up in the Valley working, so we flew to Seattle after work on a Wednesday night, staying overnight at an AirBnB on nearby Mercer Island.  As we’d been hearing, the renewed appetite for travel “post-pandemic” meant rental car prices were high and that was certainly our experience: > $800 for a Nissan Sentra for 6 days.  Our drive through the northern Cascades was scenic and Dave treated us to a home-cooked steak and risotto dinner that night at the cabin.  We spent the next 3 days mountain biking with Dave, he on his gravel bike.  We rented extremely fat tired bikes from Merle at North Cascades Cyclewerks in Mazama, from which we explored the Valley trail. We rode Dave’s neighbors’ mountain bikes the next two days, right from the cabin, exploring a wonderful network of scenic and little-traveled gravel roads and trails, including my favorite, a fun, winding singletrack around  Lake Pearrygin, which is the focal point of the idyllic view from their cabin.

A view one would never tire of, Dave and Rasa’s, from their Methow Valley cabin includes Lake Pearrygin.

We broke up our return to Seattle to fly east by staying one night on the way back at Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort in Leavenworth, a Bavarian-themed town. We might have missed our flight back if not for this change of plan, with a dead car battery stalling our departure from Dave’s driveway.

New York was back and nearly as lively ever. Broadway was still closed but museums were thronged.  We attended our first in person concert in over a year, at Fotografiska, a jazz trio led by saxophonist and clarinetist Stuart Bogie, accompanied by bass player Spencer Zahn and Jeremy Gustin on drums. A lanky museum liason joined in with his green trumpet. He (Jordan Mclean) contacted me months later asking to use my concert photos to publicize the trio’s future concerts.  We love the 1894 renovated former Church Mission building in which the museum is housed and the 6th floor is an intimate event venue.  Our ticket included admission to the museum for the day, so we went early to take in the exhibits.  We particularly enjoyed the surreal tableaux of British photographic artist Miles Aldridge, entitled Virgin Mary. Supermarkets. Popcorn. Photographs 1999 to 2020. His work has a sinister undercurrent of the Stepford Wives to it, despite the glaringly cheerful palette. I found Adrienne Raquel’s portrayal of black strip club workers an interesting look into an alternate universe.  The show’s title ONYX refers to Houston’s Club Onyx on which Raquel trained her gaze and found her subjects. Pixy Liao’s depictions of her relationship with Japanese musician Moro were more playful, in a show entitled Your Gaze Belongs to Me, upending conventional gender role depictions. A colorful show we had seen in April entitled Vogue: The Arab Issue of British-Moroccan Hassan Hajjij was still up, using fashion photography sensibilities to train a lens on Moroccans.

An animated polka dotted Yayoi Kusama pumpkin and other works drew us out on a hot summer day to the New York Botanical Garden.

Our stay in the Berkshires was a wonderful introduction to this area (now we know why the Wieners love it so) and our visit to Edith Wharton’s home, the Mount, launched me on an Edith Wharton reading jag, re-reading/listening to favorites from my 20s, The House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence and enjoying for the first time a classic set in the Berkshires, Ethan Frome.  Her books feature tragic protagonists, victims of circumstance and economic privation.

Edith Wharton’s home in the Berkshires, the Mount, is surrounded by inviting gardens.

August

A beautiful foggy morning on the Maine coast, off Five Islands, near Georgetown.

How you know you’re in Maine: lobster imagery is literally everywhere!

Maine: In lobster we trust.

Sarah and Aaron rented a large house south of Brunswick on a peninsula along the coast of Maine.  We joined them for a week, with Greg, after our initial plans (Photopills seminar in Sedona) and then our back-up plans (Greg’s parent’s house in a remote part of Canada) were derailed by Covid.  Aaron’s aunt Linda, his father’s sister, joined them for both weeks, while the 3 of us went for the first.  Susan had been invited but her paralyzing fear of ticks kept her from accepting the invitation.  For us, it was a delightful option, only our second trip to Maine, the first way back in the 1990s, when Steve took a Photoshop course and I did an architectural photography class at the Maine Photo Workshops back in the era of view cameras.

The coast of Maine is ridiculously picturesque! (Five Islands, Georgetown)

For months, we’d been planning to go to Sedona where Greg would meet us, and where we’d learn to use Photopills, the astrophotography planning app, more effectively in a 3-day workshop.  Unfortunately, Rafeal Pons, a developer of the app, lives in Menorca and Spain was behind in vaccinations, leading to cancellation of the  workshop  in May.  For a while, we contemplated meeting up at the remote Canadian house of Greg’s parents. Month after month, the continually extended ban on non-essential travel to Canada thwarted us. Sarah and Aaron solved our dilemma with an invitation to join them at The Red House in Maine.

Hidden in the forest, our home for the week near Brunswick, Maine: the Red House.

A large and inviting porch at the Red House, near Brunswick, Maine.

A comfortable home for a week in coastal Maine, near Brunswick.

Despite the unseasonably hot and humid weather, we had a great time exploring the area and getting a feel for Portland, which has a reputation as a foodie city.  Arriving at the house after a long Saturday travel day, Aaron had Portland pizza waiting for us from Otto’s.  The house was in a state of flurry, as Sarah, Aaron and Linda had arrived earlier in the day to find a leak from an upstairs bathroom manifesting on the living room ceiling, taking out the big-screen TV.  The house manager had already replaced the TV and had fans going, as well as installed air conditioners in the bedrooms, taking the edge off the uncomfortable heat.

By the time we awoke the next morning, Aaron had already made a run to Portland for Scratch bagels, which were worth the trip.

Maine wildlife sighting: flocks of wild turkeys regularly criss-crossed into the forest surrounding the Red House, near Brunswick, Maine.

Steve, Greg and I explored the local area, ending up taking a late afternoon walk and doing some photography at Popham Beach, which featured a wonderful wide sand expanse, with families playing in shallow pools of water and marvelous ripples in the sand.

Greg and Steve at Popham Beach, near Harpswell, Maine.

Steve, Greg, Aaron and I rented mountain bikes from Gorham in Saco, south of Portland and rode the most scenic part of the Eastern Maine Trail to South Portland. Greg’s aunt Irene and uncle Grier, a delightful couple, rendezvoused with us outside a Thai restaurant (Ruby) that Aaron knew. We were debating how to safely have an al fresco pandemic-safe lunch, considering getting take-out and cycling with it to a park vs. sending the food to a nearby park with Irene and Grier in their car while we biked over, when the restaurant’s staff solved our dilemma by bringing table and chairs out into the parking lot, and “delivering” take-out food to us.  The setting wasn’t glamorous but we had it to ourselves in the open air.

Family time and a most enjoyable lunch, pandemic-safe, in an empty parking lot of Ruby, a Thai restaurant in South Portland. The accommodating staff pulled tables and chairs out into the lot for us and “delivered” our take-out. Steve, Greg, Aaron and I rented mountain bikes in Saco and rode a scenic section of the Eastern Maine Trail to South Portland.  Greg’s aunt Irene and uncle Grier, who have a summer home in Maine,  rendezvoused with us for lunch at Ruby.

We did one group boat outing, to Eastern Egg Rock, the locus of Project Puffin, an Audobon environmental success story.  On this stony 7-acre islet, a colony of Atlantic puffins has successfully been re-established, beginning in 1973.  Puffins last nested here in 1885.  Populations of seabirds along the coast of Maine had been decimated by egg hunting, collection for meat and feathers and habitat encroachment.  The colony at Eastern Egg was slowly re-established, initially by translocating almost 1000 puffin chicks from Newfoundland (puffins return to their birthplace to nest, but these chicks were moved early in their lives in the hope of imprinting Eastern Egg on them as their home) and placement of decoy puffins on the islet to fool migrating birds into thinking this was an established colony (fledged puffins spend up to 5 years at sea before maturing enough to breed).  Over time, these efforts bore fruit, beginning with 5 nesting pairs in 1981 and at least 172 pairs by 2017.

Midway through our stay, Steve, Greg and I headed into Portland to met up with Deb, a friend from Steve’s adolescence who he reconnected with in recent years, via social media, after coming across an old letter.  We had a drink at the Gin Distillery before a delicious Mexican dinner at Terlingua.  Greg and I shot the Milky Way that evening at the Giant’s Staircase near Harpswell.

The Giant’s Steps, near Harpswell, Maine: light from a solitary house lent a little glow to the coastal rock formations below.

The following day, we took Steve to see the Giant’s Staircase.  Later, after dark , we parked outside Popham Beach and walked in to shoot the Milky Way during the Perseid peak, keeping us out until midnight.

A seriously starry sky, seen from deserted Popham Beach and a good application of my star tracker (2 minute exposure).

This warmed us up for an all day shoot on Friday with Benjamin Williamson, a photo guide I found through the Internet. We lucked out with beautiful early morning fog at Five Islands Lobster Company near Georgetown.

As we sped through the darkness at  5:11am, an excited text  arrived  from Benjamin:  “Epic conditions  at Five Islands this morning!”  It was stunning and kept us happily occupied for several hours.

Five Islands is a working lobster fishery near Georgetown, Maine.

Misty and moody morning in Maine at a lobster fishery, Five Islands near Georgetown.

Color in the sky, clouds, a light fog and a gorgeous scene, everything a photographer could want on a shoot in southern Maine (Five Islands, Georgetown).

Lobstermen at work early in on a summer morning in August at Five Islands, near Georgetown, Maine.

After our sunrise shoot at Five Islands, we sent the drones up to get a different take on the fog and the Maine coast.

 

Aerial view of the Maine coast near Five Islands Lobster Company and Georgetown.

Afterwards, we stopped to shoot at a river lighthouse, then had a hearty and satisfying breakfast at Mae’s in Bath.

Lighthouse on the River, near Georgetown, Maine.

For sunset, we went to Lookout Point.

Dingies at sunset, Maine coast.

Appropriately named, Sunset Point near Harpswell is a beautiful spot.

My tiny wallet, made from bicycle tire rubber and a souvenir of last year’s trip to Moab,  which contained credit cards and cash, disappeared sometime after our meal at Mae’s.  I thought it would turn up in one of the many crevices in my photo backpack or in the back of the car.  Indeed, when I later completely emptied the backpack trying to find it (specifically, the driver’s license that ordinarily would have been in it, without which I would be hard-pressed to fly back to California without difficulty), I found a treasure trove of misplaced lens caps that had gone missing over the years.

Not locating it, I left messages at Mae’s, asked someone there to look in the booth in which we had sat and called the Bath Police Department in case it had fallen out while we walked the short distance from our street parking place to the restaurant.  The following morning, Greg and I drove back to Mae’s to search the street and the booth ourselves, to no avail.  And then, a miracle happened…although the wallet never turned up, I later found my driver’s license in my computer bag, where I had put it to keep it handy while going through security at the airport.  Ordinarily I always immediately replace it in my wallet so I don’t get caught out driving without it, but somehow, luckily, just this once, I hadn’t done it.

The heat had kept us from doing much hiking earlier in the week, but Greg and I found some relief and verdant cover walking towards the end of the week through Devil’s Spine in a light drizzle, encountering a plethora of mushrooms along the way.

The lush forest floor in southern Maine supports a rich population of mushrooms.

And more mushrooms carpeting the soft forest floor, near Harpswell, Maine (the Devil’s Spine).

Back at the house, we flew the drone and again the following morning,  Sunday, to run the batteries down before our flight.

The beautiful peninsula near Brunswick, Maine, where we happily stayed in August, thanks to Sarah and Aaron.

We made a momentous decision at the end of this month, giving 6 months notice of our intention to go on a “sunset” retirement track, dropping down to half-time without call for 2 years and then out.  Why this all came to a head this month is not entirely clear, but the strain of working under pandemic precautions, coupled with the stress of the cyber attack back in May and the uncertainty stemming from the upcoming finalization of our group’s merger in a month are probably reasons enough.  Throw in wanting to have more of our time to ourselves while we are still healthy enough to enjoy it and the daily reminders of how quickly one’s medical fortunes can be derailed and the timing seemed right, this year being my 30th in practice.

September

The first half of September was filled with work and training rides for our upcoming Prescott mountain biking trip with Western Spirit.  We attended an open air concert with Barbara and Bay at Humphrey’s of TWO of my favorite artists, with Aimee Mann opening for Rufus Wainwright. Barbara and Bay were mostly recovered from Covid the prior month, although Barbara’s sense of smell was still impaired.  Before leaving for vacation, I was kept busy revising a paper for JACR (Journal of the American College of Radiology) on the 2 year experience of Shin with CureMetrix’ cmTriage and cmAssist programs.  I had just relinquished my duties as Vice President of Medical Affairs at the company, considerably lowering my stress level.

We had two consecutive weeks off in the latter half of September.  We drove out to Arizona for the first week, bracketing our Prescott mountain bike trip with Western Spirit with short stays at the house in Sedona before and after.

Startrails over Granite Mountain, near Prescott, Arizona.

The second week saw us returning to New York City, with Broadway reopened and nearly as vibrant as ever. For our return to live theatre and Broadway, I decided to pick up where we left off, with two favorites from the fall of 2019 and a show we had been scheduled to see in March 2020 when the world shut down. Mayde joined us for Hadestown and Les for American Utopia.  Both shows were rapturously received by masked and vaccinated audiences.

Come see how the world could be: Hadestown marquee, lit again on Broadway.

Hadestown cast takes a bow in September 2021, having opened earlier in the month after the long coronavirus hiatus.

The curtain for American Utopia, a show with David Byrne and a marching cadre of musicians that we loved so much, we’ve seen it 3 times: fall 2019 (Before Times), this trip and Spike Lee’s excellent film version.

Barefoot Byrne and a talented group of marching and dancing musicians in American Utopia.

Les and Steve unwind after American Utopia with cocktails and lobster mac and cheese at the St. Regis.

We caught up with our San Diego friends Gail and Mel and saw their renovated kitchen before finally seeing the Lehman Trilogy.  I had not been able to get tickets for Lehman when it was at the Park Avenue Armory and we had had to cancel our March 2020 trip, including Lehman, when all the theaters and elective travel ground to a standstill.

Steve turned 64 during our stay.  His back was flinchy from our camping trip the week before, so we arranged sessions with a miracle-working masseuse, Diana.  Aaron picked us up and transported us to Staten Island for a birthday dinner featuring freshly caught fish and a sensational Royal Crown cake. We also caught up with Clarissa and Jason on a walk at Little Island.

Little Island glows in the late afternoon of September.

A musical option at Little island is very popular with young and old alike.

Little Island supports.

Glowing grasses at Little Island, September 2021.

Former MCASD education director Chris Scorza somehow recognized us from a distance, despite sunglasses and masks.  We were only a short distance from her new empire at the Whitney Museum.  We crossed paths long enough to have a rooftop dinner with another set of San Diego friends, John and Cliff, on their way home the next day after recovering from Greece jet lag in New York.

The perfect artwork for a Francophile breast imager, Sein, a giant golden breast by French artist César, sprouts from the floor of gorgeous Salon 94 on the Upper East Side.

Maya Lin’s Ghost Forest, a 6 month installation in 2021 in Madison Square Park in NYC, shone a subtle light on climate change issues with this imposing stand of 49 dead Atlantic white cedar trees which fell victim to salt water inundation.

The artistic highlights of the week were seeing works by French artist César at beautiful Salon 94 and strolling through Maya Lin’s tree installation in Madison Square Park.

October

On October 1, our prolonged merger with the former La Jolla Radiology group became finalized, with a full operational merger.  I began working intermittently at the Polster Breast Center, in addition to Fenton.  There were many micro adjustments to be made, but generally it went smoothly.  A nice new addition to our group, Pranay, helped considerably pave the way for me with a soft landing.

After undergoing booster shots early in the month, we began to feel better about traveling overseas and contemplated an overdue return to Paris.  We tiptoed back into San Diego theater, seeing Gardens of Anuncia at the Old Globe and San Diego Repertory’s Mother Road.  I began a ground truthing tomosynthesis project for CureMetrix.

November

Clarissa and Jason came from New York to visit Mama and Claire, after a long pandemic hiatus.  Clarissa booked a couple of nights at Humphrey’s to spend some time with Mama outside of Ohana.  I had dinner with them one night, when there was no concert at Humphrey’s, in a near empty dining room.  We ordered Mama a crab cake club sandwich, which she determinedly deconstructed.  Clarissa and Jason brought Claire over the next weekend for a casual, take-out Chi-Ko dinner.  We hadn’t seen Claire since January 2020, when she came with Jason’s brother Alec and his wife Martha to a walk-through of my gallery show at the Photographer’s Eye in Escondido, so many, many pre-pandemic months ago.

After a long workweek culminating in busy days reading MSK and general at Carmel Valley on Thursday and general radiology at Rancho Bernardo on Friday, I finally made it to a concert at the new Conrad Performing Arts Center in downtown La Jolla, as Vivian’s guest.  She arranged dinner at nearby Spices Thai to introduce me to a couple, Michael and Margaret, who share a love of Paris and have had an apartment there for years.  We ran into Lenny and Arleene, also attending the same concert, on the way to the restaurant.  They were finally “dipping their toes” back into New York the following week. There were other familiar faces at the concert, including Susan and Richard U, Gordon B and my book groupies, Mary and Jann. The concert hall is a warm wooden delight, seating 500 people in an intimate setting.  This performance featured artist-in-residence, Isreali Avi Avital playing the mandolin, with Milos from Montenegro on classical guitar, interspersing Bach with Philip Glass to delightful effect.

November-December

“When one door closes, another opens” said the inventor Alexander Graham Bell.  Thus have we parlayed one Covid-canceled trip after another into other possibilities.  In late September, a big hole opened in our calendar when our Southern Ocean eclipse trip to the Falkland Islands, Antarctica and South Georgia was canceled.  Covid-related logistics were to blame.  We had requested over 3 weeks off to do this trip and we had but a month to come up with a new plan.  Paris won out over Iceland and ice caves, Florida for diving and Art Basel and other considerations. It had been 6 years and we were encouraged by reports from multiple friends who ventured abroad earlier this year during lulls in the waxing and waning Covid crisis.  We decided on doing a trip within a trip, first spending a long weekend in New York, where we were thrilled that the late arriving fall was still coloring the trees in Central Park.  New York was in full swing, giving us a chance to see shows, friends and family, including Girl From the North Country (a musical set in the Depression making use of Bob Dylan’s mournful songbook), Porgy and Bess at the Met and an exhibition based on The Hare with the Amber Eyes at the Jewish Museum, where we ran  into our friends Cliff and John.

The namesake netsuke from The Hare with the Amber Eyes, one of a collection traced by author Edmund de Waal as it is passed down through the generations of his family.

We brunched with Sarah and Aaron at Red Rooster in Harlem and later caught up with Ted and Yasi and their kids at Flame on the UWS.

From New York , the trip to France was shorter and easier, not to mention a lot cheaper than from the West Coast.  We spent 9 glorious days walking, eating, museum-ing and connecting with friends old and new, including our American in Paris retiree friend Patricia, her more recently retired sister Cynthia and our artist-engineer friend Milène Guermont, who was closing in on finishing a “total artwork” of an apartment for herself, for which she designed everything from the light fixtures to the plumbing, collaborating along the way with 80 different companies and artisans. Favorite restaurants were re-visited (Breizh Cafe, Frenchie) and new ones appreciated (Mokonuts, Chez l’Ami Jean, KGB, Semilla, Halle aux Grains), with the big changes being having to make most reservations before leaving the US and producing our Passe Sanitaire QR codes, documenting our vaccinated status, for entry into theaters, restaurants and museums.  Patricia, Cynthia, Steve and I spent an eye-dazzling night at the theater with an appreciative French audience for Le Roi Lion (The Lion King), a classic and a delight for so many reasons.  We also marked the internment of Joséphine Baker in the Pantheon during our stay by attending a musical revue at Theatre d’Passy , a tribute to her life and career as entertainer, resistance fighter and civil rights activist, entitled Joséphine B.  Clarisse Caplan, a long-limbed and limber reincarnation of Joséphine Baker, brought her to entertaining life, including the unforgettable banana dance for which she was (in)famous.  There were architectural additions to the Paris scene to check out as well, especially Tadao Ando’s conversion of the Bourse de Commerce into a contemporary art outpost for displaying portions of the art collection of François Pineault.

We were incredibly lucky in our timing, as Omicron leapt onto the world stage during our stay in France and the situation thereafter changed fast. Even as we video tested ourselves to regain entry to the US, the rules were changing. From within 3 days before departure, it changed to within 24 hours-on the day we flew back to New York.

An umbrella salesman tries to capitalize on the moody skies overhead on a Paris bridge.

We had a wonderful second long weekend in New York, much of it spent at one or another Apple store, as I shopped for a new laptop, upgraded to a new Iphone (my 6 year old one was working fine, but the new camera system was an enticement) and replaced my 6 year old, dead as a doornail Apple watch.  We caught a couple of movies (Drive My Car and Benedetta), one additional show (Caroline or Change) and a classical guitar concert by Ana Vidovic at the 92cd Street Y.  We also fell for the sinuous wire sculptures of Ruth Asawa at the David Zwirner Gallery, quickly ascertaining we couldn’t afford one, even if one was available (every piece in this show was pre-sold).

Ruth Asawa, a Japanese-American artist who died in 2013, has been receiving post-mortem attention and accolades, including sales of hanging sculptures like these (David Zwirner Gallery in Chelsea this fall) in the millions at auction.

First world problem: Can’t afford a Ruth Asawa. Solution: Find her artistic descendant, D’Lisa Creager, who learned the wire crochet technique from Ruth’s daughter.

That launched Steve on an Internet search leading to D’Lisa Creager, who learned the wire crocheting technique from Ruth’s daughter.  Her work seems to further extend the complex curvilinear possibilities of Ruth’s work.  This led us to bid remotely on a piece at auction, from the comfort of Sedona, where we spent the final of our 3 glorious weeks off.

Cibola Mitten, on a sunny winter day in Sedona.

 

It also prompted us to re-route our return through Palm Springs in order to see more pieces in person. This gave us a chance to spend the night in the Bottle Room at 29 Palms Inn and to breakfast the following morning with David and Kurt.

Iconic Joshua Tree on a winter late afternoon.

Omicron introduced new intricacies into socializing with friends for the holidays.

Crabby Christmas-a blast of a tradition!

For Crabby Christmas at Ralph and Gail’s, the 6 guests (Chris and Ranjit, John and Mishel) were all triple vaccinated and rapid tested twice, the day before and 2 hours before the festivities, which were delicious and delightful.

For New Year’s Eve at Tatiana and Miles, the 6 of us also tested before gathering.  A vintage favorite film of Tatiana’s was screened, with Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole staging an artwork theft in How to Steal a Million.  This led to a discussion of other favorite art world films, which led me to put together a blog post on this topic.

We ushered in this new year at Miles’ and Tatiana’s, with Audrey Hepburn and the 1966 art heist film, How to Steal a Million. (Buenos Aires street art, New Year’s Day, 2019, exactly 3 years ago)

As I write this, in January 2022, we look ahead hopefully and cautiously.  The Omicron variant is again straining hospitals’ resources and staffs’ patience.  At work, conferences continue to be virtual and we work more often alone than with others, some days from home, other days in the hospital at (mostly) solitary work stations. We look forward to having more time off as we sail onto the “sunset” retirement track beginning in March. Mama was recently involuntarily moved from her small group home (Ohana 1, with a maximum of 6 residents) to a larger, recently acquired second facility in Poway, Ohana 2 (with a maximum of 15 residents), as staffing crunches forced the owners to consolidate resources to maintain 24 hour coverage.  Taking refuge from the world and work as Omicron peaks in San Diego in January, we were mostly home when not working or cycling.  Although when home we are deriving a ridiculous amount of delight in our newly installed D’Lisa Creager original, we look forward to the day when we can abandon double masking and circulate in the world more freely.

-Marie

The morning sun doubles the pleasure of our holiday present to ourselves, our newly installed D’Lisa Creager original, hand delivered by D’Lisa, husband Kent and son Korbin on a special Saturday in January 2022!

 

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