Category Archives: United States

The Focused Whitney


The last time Ruth & I were in The Whitney Museum in New York City it was in what appeared to be a cramped, upside down building at Madison Avenue and 75th Street.  It was 2010.  In 2015 a new Whitney, it’s 4th location since its founding in 1931, opened in the Meatpacking District.  One of the reasons why we returned to New York City in 2017 was to see it.   The Whitney is unique in that it is devoted to American art.   It had outgrown its East Side location because its collection was up to more than 21,000 works.

The new Whitney is between the Hudson River and High Line Park.  It was designed by Renzo Piano, whose works like the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris have been controversial.  I like London’s The Shard, but its top level condos proved hard to sell.  His Whitney design is not beautiful in the traditional sense but it’s a winner as expansive museum space.


The Meatpacking District is undergoing a Renaissance.  It has design stores, fine restaurants, great buzz, etc.   The Whitney with its contemporary look, outdoor decks, and supersized indoor spaces fits right in.  NYC’s original City Guide calls it “The most cutting-edge of the major art museums in New York”, a city with more than 1,000 museums, and adds that the building itself is worth the trip.  This is correct if you like white walls and austere rooms.

The building uses floors 1, 3, 5, and 8 for temporary exhibitions.  Floors  6 & 7 are devoted to The Whitney’s own collection but there will be, I was told, frequent changes.  At first, for example, the curators had not put up many of the Edward Hoppers The Whitney is especially known for, and they had to bring some out of storage to satisfy visitor complaints. I liked the way they mixed photography with more labor-intensive works, giving this art form some well-deserved, equal credibility.  Ruth liked the Studio Cafe on the top floor.  We both liked the step-outside-for-grand-views decks on the upper floors.  The best temporary exhibit we saw was devoted to Alexander Calder mobiles.  It has closed.  A couple of times each day a staff member used a stick to make some of them move.  Mobiles are meant to move but they seldom do in museum displays.

Plan ahead.  Unlike other museums that traditionally close on Mondays, the Whitney’s day off is Tuesday.




Bosnians & Syrians


The neighborhood in St. Louis where I grew up has been transformed.  By 2013 there were 70,000 Bosnian immigrants living in the area.  This was the largest concentration of Bosnians outside Europe.

While there are almost 2 million Hispanics in Chicago, there aren’t too many in St. Louis. Why did Hispanics migrate to much colder Chicago instead of St. Louis?  I don’t know. Where Ruth and I live now, there are lots of Hispanics but also a large number of Asians. Asians, it seems, choose the West Coast in far greater numbers than the American Midwest.

St. Louis has always been a city of immigrants.  Between 1763 and the Louisiana Purchase, it was basically French.  Streets in my old neighborhood have names like Laclede and Chouteau.  Germans and the Irish arrived in large numbers in the 19th century.  My father was the former and my mother the latter.  Most of the Italians, who arrived in large numbers a bit later, lived on The Hill.  Three of my best high school friends were Italian, Austrian, and Polish.

Why did Bosnians choose to come and settle in my old neighborhood?  When Yugoslavia splintered in the 1990s, Bosnian refugees fled civil war.  Many came to St. Louis and lived near the intersection of Grand and Gravois.   This part of town became known as Little Bosnia.   When I was growing up, Gravois was not pronounced in the French way.  It was Gra-voy Street to me, the first syllable pronounced like the GRA in grass.  Early Bosnian settlers in the 1990s built smokehouses in their St. Louis backyards to spit-roast whole lambs.  This alarmed some locals.

Bosnians proved industrious.  The area they choose to live in centered around Bevo Mill, a long-time St. Louis restaurant.  The neighborhood improved. Bosnian shops and restaurants sprang up.  Bosnians started many successful businesses.   Zlatno Zito, Taft, and Iriskic Brothers are on Gravois.  The 1st two are restaurants and the 3rd is a grocery store.  Bosnians sent their kids to universities.  Their community had less unemployment than others and has already somewhat splintered.   Many of the mosques, restaurants, and Bosnians are in other places in the St. Louis area.


When I ask St. Louisans about Bosnians, most of them tell me that they’ve dined in their restaurants. Bevo Mill has recently reopened, but I don’t know its cuisine.  Grbic serves Bosnian food, is well-liked, and is still on Keokuk Street in the old neighborhood.

But Bosnians have begun to scatter. Berix, a Bosnian restaurant, is on Lemay Ferry Road relatively far from Little Bosnia.  So is the Bosnian Islamic Center of St. Louis.  Many Bosnians would like to see more Syrians settle here.

I took the photo below in a store window on Grand Avenue near where I once lived.




Dubuque Shocks

Dubuque is Iowa’s oldest city.   I passed through it many times when I lived in St. Louis and always enjoyed seeing its classic courthouse that looks like an elaborate 19th century Lego project.   This time we were on our way from Galena to Madison and didn’t plan to stop in this place where 3 states meet. “We have time for one attraction,” I said to Ruth.   “Let’s see what the Dubuque Museum of Art is like.”  We were in for several shocks.

There was a school field trip in progress.  One of the teachers apologized unnecessarily for their presence and raved about the current show, “Shiny, Sticky, Smooth”.  “The boys especially like it,” she told me.  I must have looked puzzled.  “POW!” she said.   We went upstairs to see it and had our 1st 3 shocks.  The temporary exhibit was from the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation (JSFF), it was a big city exhibit appearing in a small town, and I understood POW!   Schnitzer is a big name in Oregon’s Portland, and many arts endeavors across the river from where we live have the Schnitzer name on them.  As Getty is to California, Schnitzer is to Oregon.  There was a Roy Lichtenstein cartoon print upstairs among the Warhols and other recognizable names.   The exhibit, which closes May 14, contained more than 50 pop pieces from the family’s vast collection. I went down to the reception desk and the lady in charge that day gave me a brochure that listed all the museums that have recently shown JSFF stuff.   It informed me that this foundation has organized more than 100 exhibitions in over 75 American museums and that the exhibit we were enjoying along with the kids would travel to Grinnell College and be on display from July 1 to September 10, 2017.   If you plan to travel across Iowa this summer, “Shiny, Sticky, Smooth” is worth seeing.

I went back upstairs to find Ruth and had another shock.   She was in the room with the Dubuque Museum of Art’s  permanent collection.  This museum focuses on American art, has a personal collection of more than 2,200 works including an impressive Grant Wood assortment of paintings, lithographs, etc. If you’re wondering who Grant Wood is, I’m not surprised.  Most of what he produced in his short but prolific career has not left Iowa.   The major one that has left is in Chicago and is among the most admired and copied American paintings.  It’s “American Gothic”.

I went downstairs for 2 more shocks. The paintings in an exhibit now closed were exceptional.  John Anderson-Bricker has been painting the Mississippi River that flows past Dubuque in every season since 1997. Appropriately called “Fire and Ice”, 10 of his works were up.  After admiring them I went down to the basement and found a room with all walls featuring children’s art, and I suddenly understood the field trip’s enthusiasm and one of this museum’s main focuses.

Going in, I hadn’t planned to write about this museum, but it was such a series of delightful shocks that I changed my mind. On the way out, I stopped at the main desk to thank the lady again and received one final shock.  She handed me several sheets of paper about the museum that I hadn’t asked for and reminded me to check out its Edward Curtis’ North American Indian collection of early 20th century photographs before I left.  Local pride resides in Dubuque.


Bravo Show Low

It rare that I like a town shortly after arriving in it for the first time, but that happened in Show Low.   Ruth and I went there because we had not explored that part of Arizona and I was used to reading raves about its community museum.

Show Low has an elevation of 6,347 feet, making it a cool getaway for parched desert dwellers.  The White Mountains that cause this altitude contain more than 30 lakes.   Fool Hollow and Show Low lakes are either in or near town and magnets for fishing fans and campers.

Show Low’s setting is superior.   The town spreads out as it grows to showcase its glorious Ponderosa Pines.   Some of its literature boasts that this is the largest stand of these trees in the world, and that was probably true until forest fires altered the landscape.

Show Low is on the eastern edge of the Mogollon Rim, which I had to relearn how to pronounce–mag ee on.   Some say “muggy own”.  A local citizen told me that Mogollon is the lowest level of the Colorado Plateau.   A natural feature of Arizona, Mogollon’s volcanic uplift gives this state some heat-relieving high country in summer and 2 major ski resorts in winter, one of them called Sunrise, which is 42 miles southwest of Show Low.

July is Show Low’s biggest tourist month with about 40,000 outsiders showing up.   July is especially popular because of this town’s huge and often unique 4th of July parade.  Check out its 2016 Freedomfest entry form on and the parade’s YouTube awesomeness.

Show Low has a pleasant appearance.   One of the fastest growing cities in the Southwest, its population has increased 40% since this century began. Mormons were its first settlers in the 19th century.  Although it was established in 1870, it wasn’t incorporated until 1953.  Today it has all the amenities of a much larger town like a Walmart Supercenter and WME Show Low 5, a cineplex that boasts, “All Stadium, All Rocker-Loveseat, All Digital Sound”.   It may be up-to-date, but Show Low’s main street is still Deuce of Clubs.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about its unconventional yet small-town-normal Historical Society Museum where Ruth & I experienced a warm welcome and spent far more time than we planned.    How often does one get to experience a thunder gourd?



Granbury Gets Even Better

dsc0848240 miles southwest of Fort Worth, Granbury is said to have the best town square in Texas.  It’s certainly my favorite.  Ruth and I visited this town last year for the first time and really liked it.  This year we met Sam Houston.


I was taking photos of The Square as Sam was coming out of a white-tiled theater entrance.  He was in an expansive mood and told us that he was involved in a project to schedule this underused theater for live performances. He rattled off a few familiar names as examples of entertainers he and his cohorts were hoping to bring to Granbury.  He took Ruth and me inside to see it and then the venue next door that might be used for meet-and-greets.   The theater was small, intimate, attractive, and ready for live performers.

Sam told us that he was a performer and that his given name really was Sam Houston.  He told us that he travels around Texas in a one-man show becoming the historical Sam Houston, the colorful Lion of Texas.  He told us some stories about his often notorious namesake and said that he enjoyed speaking to school groups and conventioneers while becoming the man responsible for Texas’ statehood and probably the only politician to be the Governor of 2 states.  The other one was Tennessee.

Sam told us that after visitors admired Granbury’s thriving town square with it centerpiece 150-year-old courthouse, attended a performance in the opera house, and saw Jesse James grave that there wasn’t much else to keep them there.  He and others hoped to use the square’s other theater to keep them in Granbury a bit longer to hear a show biz trooper perform and, perhaps, answer questions from the audience.  Sam mentioned Texan Lyle Lovett.  I suggested Lucinda Williams, who was born in Louisiana but has lived in Texas.  We wished Sam success in his new endeavor and crossed the street.


Granbury already has live theater.   Ruth & I entered the Granbury Opera House and met actor Kevin Baum, who let us go upstairs to see it.   Built in 1886, it ceased being a performance venue in 1911.  After being a bowling alley, the folks of Granbury decided to return it to its original function.  A successful, small town theater company began crafting and presenting musicals and plays in the newly renovated opera house.  They attracted audiences from all over Texas.  The current show was Steel Magnolias.  Kevin told us that he was trying out for a role in the upcoming Shrek, The Musical.

dsc08497There might soon be yet another reason besides small-town-charm for Ruth & me to return to Granbury.