Aug 12

Remembering Ruth’s Passing, in good company

Remembering Ruth’s Passing, in good company

 Ruth
Painting of Ruth Ford.

With only 365 days to choose for birthday and day of dying, there is a good company for everyone sharing these special days, it would seem. Ruth passed away on August 12th 2009, and the most famous person to share the date of demise is Cleopatra, the last active ruler of Ptolemaic Egypt. I’ve mentioned that one before, and there are of course many more, lots of long lists of people who share the same date of demise, such as the Japanese pop singer Kyu Sakamoto, who sang the song called “Sukiyaki” in the United States. He died in a spectacular plane crash in 1985. In 1988, here in New York, Jean-Michel Basquiat died on August 12th, leaving behind all his paintings. Isaac Singer got a patent for his sewing machine on that date in 1851 which has been used by countless people. Is there a significance to sharing these dates? It’s a mystery, all of it. How can anyone know the answer? For me, this date has a meaningful importance in so many ways. I always think of Ruth on this day. On this day on 2009, my life changed, an era came to an end, and I carry a little bit of Ruth Ford’s influence wherever I go.

 ford
Ruth Ford. Photo by Francesco Scavullo

Ruth Ford

July 7th, 1911- August 12th, 2009

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Jun 24

THE TRASHLESS STREETS OF BARCELONA

Trashless Barcelona City.
Recently, I made a trip with my wife Radhika and my daughter Zina to Barcelona. We left on April 10th and returned on April 18th. Zina had found good deals on airfare and hotel both. It was her idea and wish to go to that city, as she has been studying Spanish in school and had an interest, so we went. However, we found people speaking Catalan in Barcelona, not Spanish, but we managed to do okay nevertheless.
The day we arrived, we were early to get into our hotel room, so we left our luggage at hotel’s front desk and went for a walk. Our hotel was just outside the main city of Barcelona, about the distance between Manhattan and Queens. It was a nice place, an actual apartment with a living room and a kitchenette, and fairly priced. That first morning we went into a local breakfast shop for coffee and croissants. Zina asked for the croissant to be heated, in Spanish, but they misunderstood and thought she merely wanted a different one.  She finally managed to make the waiter understand and they brought it to her nice and warm.

 

Architecture of Barcelona

Our week in Barcelona was packed with so many activities and thing-to-do! First, we went to the Picasso Museum which opened to the public on 9 March 1963. There are more than 4,300 Picasso’s works to see in this museum, but alas no photos allowed. That was not easy for me, being so attached to my camera, but it was a wonderful museum with all of his arts categorized in different sections for different periods of his life; the early years, the blue period, the later period. I find it amazing that one person could create so much, and this was not even all of what he made. The museum district of Barcelona is a labyrinth of little narrow streets and everywhere you look are beautiful buildings. It was very crowed and there were tourists everywhere even though it was considered low season when we visited. It seemed to me that there were more tourists than residents. But many beautiful cities run on the income from tourism.

Picasso Museum
Our second day was Easter Friday  and there was a procession through the streets carrying the figure of Christ. We visited a gorgeous old church full of candle light. One night we went to a gorgeously decorated old theatre, Teatre Poliorama – La Rambla, to watch a very nice flamenco performance, Barcelona y Flamenco, and it was wonderful. It lasted more than an hour but it went by so fast. We visited a grand old fortress on a hill, from the top of which we could look over the whole city of Barcelona. They still have a huge cannon up there, from past when they watched the sea for attackers with their cannon at the ready. I did not see too many cats in Barcelona, but I did see one in the fortress and took his portrait.
Street procession on Easter Friday
Old Fortess
We visited the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia, designed by architect Antoni Gaudi. Zina told us that 133 years ago they started building the Sagrada church and it’s still not finished. It’s enormous and stunning on the inside, with huge columns and vast, high ceilings. I marveled at the idea of how one person’s design can be so enormous and elaborate, all of his imagination coming out of his little brain! All those calculations, in one man’s head! His remains are there, in that church. We also visited his famous park, which is huge, with both underground marvels and wonderful greenery and hikes.
Basilica of the Sagrada Familia
Some of the restaurants we tried were very nice, some less so, but it was all good, and I can’t complain.  I drank quite a bit of sangria. Each place had its own sangria with its own flavor, none tasting like the other, and I enjoyed trying all of them.
One of Zina’s reasons for wanting to visit Barcelona was the famous soccer player Lionel Messi who is on the Barcelona team. She is a fan and wanted to see him play in live. So one night she and I went together to see the match leaving Radhika in the hotel room as she was not interested in sports. We took the subway to the stadium and changed trains at a station where we had to take eight escalators down, much deeper underground than anything in New York. We had good seats for the game and Zina was happy to see Messi play. The mach was between FC Barcelona and Real Sociedad. Everything is highly commercialized for the tourist/souvenir industry. Zina wanted to buy a shirt for a friend from the soccer game, and you can have it personalized with a name while you wait. The Picasso museum also was full of endless souvenirs. In this way, Picasso created jobs to last forever thanks to this museum, with endless income lasting into the future. We were unable to visit Dali’s museum for lack of time, but one day we were eating in the dining room of a very nice hotel in the city, and I saw Dali’s portrait hanging on the wall, so I took a selfie with his portrait, with his iconic mustache, and I posted it on Facebook. It’s funny to think that while I was sitting there, surrounded by many people, I may have been the only one present who actually met Dali himself in person, which I did with Charles way back in 1974.
Zina in FC Barcelona’s match
Being a New Yorker, where trash is a part of life on the streets and in the subways, I was amazed by the cleanliness of Barcelona. There was no trash littered in the subway. It was absolutely spotless. The streets of the city as well are unbelievably clean. People in Barcelona still smoke, men and women both, so along the streets, every ten feet or so, are little repositories for cigarette butts, which the people do use. I saw almost no cigarette butts on the ground, one or two at most, and zero trash. I saw no rats. I tried to get some good photos of people who were smoking, but I don’t think I got one close up. Trash bins were everywhere, and so were city employee sweeping trash, constantly, at all hours. The trash bins are constantly being emptied, mostly by white Spanish people. It was all amazing to me.
Time really flew by in our trip to Barcelona, and we really enjoyed every minute of it. For a short stay, Barcelona is not bad price wise, but I think it could get expensive for long stay. Sometimes our lunch or dinner would cost forty to fifty euros for the three of us, sometimes it went over a hundred. But all in all, we got a good deal, and we’ve recommended all of our friends in New York that if they want to go for a vacation and spend not so much, they should all visit Barcelona, with its glorious history of art and architecture, and trashless city streets.
-Indra Tamang
06/23/2017

copyright © Indra Tamang 2017, all rights reserved.

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