What I'm reading and viewing (1/1/19)

On the cusp of turning 30, I hopped a train from Paris to this little town called Auvers-sur-Oise, where Vincent Van Gogh painted 77 works over three months. It was drizzling and it might have been easier to hole up in a cafe back in Paris or wander the stacks at Shakespeare & Co. but because you never know when you’ll return, you rally through. This is how I found myself standing over the gravestones of Theo and Vincent Van Gogh (the two were brothers) in a rainstorm and slipping and sliding through muddy wheat fields that Van Gogh once strode through. Last night I saw “At Eternity’s Gate,” starring Willem Davoe, an intimate portrait of Van Gogh’s life and work. Wow! This film by Julian Schnabel (himself a painter) evokes all of the senses, even the breezes in those Auvers-sur-Oise wheat fields.

Two summers ago I traveled to Havana, Cuba, and while the scope was limited given that it was a day excursion from a cruise ship, I learned a ton about the country’s past and present, some of it heartbreaking and some of it bittersweet, through a personal tour guide. Chanel Cleeton’s novel “Next Year in Havana,” is set in Havana. Ironically, I found it hard to put this book down while on another cruise ship last month. I just bought a copy for my travel companion as a holiday present!

I’ve seen two plays produced by Wisconsin native and Pulitzer Prize-winnign playwright Ayad Akhtar and am thrilled another of his (“Junk: The Golden Age of Debt”) will take the stage at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater this winter. Lindsey Anderson’s profile of Akhtar in the January 2019 issue of Milwaukee Magazine was fascinating.

What I’m Reading

When traveling around the world, the question is always: “Where’s home for you?”

If I’m in another country, I respond that I live an hour north of Chicago simply because Milwaukee is lesser known. In the States, when I respond with “Milwaukee” I hear “Interesting!” or, um, silence. Folks, the word is out—on Vogue’s website—that Milwaukee is cool and underrated.

While in Los Angeles this past April I toured Frank Lloyd Wright’s first California commission: Hollyhock House at Barnsdall Art Park (http://barnsdall.org/hollyhock-house/about/). I was pleased to read on Architectural Digest’s website one of Wright’s other Southern California commissions, awash in Mayan influences just like I saw at Hollyhock House, is now on the market for a hefty $23 million. Maybe you’ve seen the Ennis house in a Hollywood flick, like “Blade Runner?”

Did you know that some travel writers are getting medical treatments done abroad? Can’t say I’ve never thought of this method but maybe I should. 

After viewing the “Finding Vivian Maier” documentary on Netflix about Vivian Maier, a nanny with a photography hobby, I enjoyed this New York Times article exploring why her work so deeply resonates. Her black-and-white images are startling and even more so is her private life, which we only now see, in this posthumous chapter of her career.

I’m trying to beat this summer heat by parking myself in a cool spot with a good book. Just finished reading Elin Hilderbrand’s “The Perfect Couple,” a quintessential beach read; and “The Girls from Corona del Mar” by Rufi Thorpe, which features good wit and the riveting story of childhood friends.