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Here Comes Summer

I love summer, but it can be a complicated season. When you're young, summer is fairly simple. "School's out" and you have the chance to be a different, a freer person. My childhood summers were spent at summer camps, an experience that left a very strong impression on me, cf. my novel WHAT IT WAS LIKE.

Summer promises all kinds of magic: the beach ... cool cars ... summer romance ... barbecues ... star-gazing ... summer songs ... sleeping outside ... fireflies ... outdoor music ... lemonade stands ...water balloon fights ... picnics ... watermelon ... drive-ins ... amusement parks ... boats ... marshmallow roasts ... summer movies ... miniature golf ... roadtrips ... fireworks ... long afternoon naps ... and endless games of baseball.

And when summer was over, you had to return to your "real" self and fall back to Earth. The cycle repeated itself, year after year, until it was all a blur. And one day, your childhood was over. 

Summer casts a special spell, especially on writers:

"Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language." ― Henry James

"In summer, the song sings itself." – William Carlos Williams

"And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer." ― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

"Summer was on the way; Jem and I awaited it with impatience. Summer was our best season: it was sleeping on the back screened porch in cots, or trying to sleep in the tree house; summer was everything good to eat; it was a thousand colors in a parched landscape; but most of all, summer was Dill." ―Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

"The summer night is like a perfection of thought." -Wallace Stevens

"I almost wish we were butterflies and liv'd but three summer days — three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain." ~John Keats

"To see the Summer Sky
Is Poetry, though never in a Book it lie–
True Poems flee — "
– Emily Dickinson

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Queretaro, the Best-Kept Secret in Mexico

The TG and I just came back from a wonderful week at my sister-in-law's amazing house in the city of Queretaro, the best-kept secret in Mexico. She lives in the historic center of Queretaro – the Centro Historico -- which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996, and it's a charming trip into another century.

The Centro Historico is a unique combination of the geometric (from the Spanish conquerors) and the twisty (from the original Otami, Tarasco, and Chichimeca inhabitants.) You can spend hours wandering the streets and alleys of the district. There are churches and piazzas, interesting stores and vendors, street entertainers and musicians. The area is filled with civil and religious Baroque monuments from its golden age in the 17th and 18th centuries. The city has an active cultural life, and an Arts Council that never quits.

Located in central Mexico, about a two hours drive, northwest of Mexico City, Queretaro is favored by a mild, semi-arid climate. There is a rainy season in summer; we missed. What I particularly love about Queretaro is its light. Sunsets are simply magical, especially from my sister-in-law's fabulous 360-degree-view roof garden.

The city of Queretaro is full of interesting sites including Los Arcos, an enormous aqueduct consisting of seventy-four arches, stretching more than half a mile, built in the 1700s to bring water to the city (and now used for art exhibits) ... the Church of San Francisco, the city's largest house of worship ... the Plaza de Independencia, the largest of city's many grand square and public spaces. We always say that walking around the Centro Historico is like taking a little vacation in Europe. The people are lovely, and the atmosphere is relaxed and convivial.

Regularly called Mexico's safest city and the city with the best quality of life, Querataro is a boom town with the second highest per capita income in Mexico. Fortunately, the restrictions required to remain a UNESCO World Heritage Site restrict changes in the Centro Historico, so this lovely area is well protected from the "progress" growing around it.

When you go to a restaurant in Querataro, there is no English on the menu: this is where Mexicans go on vacation.

I love going there, too.

And now, back to work.



Music Self-Therapy

To stay positive, I've been working hard and taking mega-doses of music. Here's what I've been aurally self-medicating with:

TOSCA at the Los Angeles Opera

Tosca isn't my favorite opera. It's not even my favorite Puccini opera. (I prefer La Boheme and Madame Butterfly.) But I've listened to the legendary Maria Callas/ Giuseppe di Stefano/Tito Gobbi recording about a million times, and this was a chance to see Sondra Radvanofsky, currently the top American soprano and one of our favorite singers, in a role that's perfect for her. In fact, we saw her in this very production in 2013.

The Tiny Goddess and I have seen Sondra four times: as Leonora in "Il Trovatore," her signature role ... a stunning Suor Angelica in Puccini's one-acter, directed brilliantly by William Friedkin ... ... in recital ... and as Tosca. Each time, she has delivered "Golden Age" thrills to my ears, and this time was no different.

Conducted by LA Opera's musical director James Conlon (leading, by his reckoning, his 69th performance of TOSCA – more than any other opera) and directed by John Caird (co-director of the Royal Shakespeare Company's stupendous NICHOLAS NICKLEBY and other things including a knockout Siegfried and Roy show we saw with the kids in Las Vegas many years ago), this was a straight-ahead TOSCA with few surprises but many blessings. First of all, it was very well-sung and well-conducted. Conlon and Radvanofsky have obviously studied the Callas/ recording and made perceptive choices, deviating from the "perfect" line created by conductor Victor de Sabata for interesting dramatic purpose.

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