Glimpses 5: Czech Republic, Germany, Switzerland, China

March 20, 2017

Originally intended as a small book, “Glimpses: In which a Casual Traveler Ruminates on Passing Scenes—1989-2011″, I should like to share it with my readers in a more informal manner as a series of Blogs.. 

Coaster from U Fleku, Prague

Coaster from U Fleku, Prague

Czech Republic: Prague: Jacky, Jörg, take us to U Flecku, an incredibly old tavern some distance from the town’s center. Scarred wooden tables. Loud men-talk. Hearty laughter. Many mugs of Urquell disappeared from our table. How many dreams had been started, thwarted, and realized in this ancient beer hall? The following day, Cornelia and I visited the newly-opened Mucha Museum, while Jacky and Jörg explored elsewhere. (Note: We met Jacky Sparkowsky and Jörg Iwan in Berlin through the Jarczyks and have visited and traveled with them in Europe extensively).

Germany: Bergisch Gladbach: Walking back home with Heinz after a visit to his favorite art shop, we stop along the way at one of his favorite haunts — a small Italian restaurant where they warmly welcome him. Our order? An espresso and shot of grappa — enough to spur on at least an hour of small talk!

Germany: Leipzig: We find a tavern on the small square and see what we can get for lunch. As we sit at our table, I discover that this was the very place where Goethe wrote part of his “Dr. Faustus”. I try to conjure up his shade and absorb his spirit. All I come away with is the taste of beer. A short distance away, the church where Bach was choirmaster. My mind whirls with history.

 Switzerland: Somewhere in the Alps: Taking a short side trip on a local train from our Eurail route from Germany to Italy, we are in a carriage filled with young skiers. Rounding one mountain as we come from shade into full sunlight we unexpectedly come upon a sky filled with multi-colored hot air balloons, all sailing past our window at eye-level! Fantastic to see their tropical, parrot-like colors against the backdrop of snow-covered Alps!

China: Beijing (1999): A city of bicycles! (I hear that now they are rapidly being replaced by automobiles in China’s burgeoning economy. It was already a city of dense smog and pollution in 1999!). Beijing — A city of signs we cannot read!

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Taking Stock

March 12, 2017
Cornelia Seckel in July of 1984 laying out Vol. 1 No. 1 of ART TIMES. The porch windows served as a light board.

Cornelia Seckel in July of 1984 laying out Vol. 1 No. 1 of ART TIMES. The porch windows served as a light board

Although, when Cornelia and I co-founded ART times back in 1984, we did not set ourselves up as a not-for-profit entity, we soon discovered that de facto, regardless of our intent, it would indeed be a not-for-profit enterprise. For the 30-odd years we’ve been in ‘business’, beyond keeping ‘afloat’ and meeting our basic needs, our income over expenses has been extremely modest. Lately, however, we’ve ended up “in the hole” (as, in fact, a great many publications and newspapers have been failing for the same reason in recent years), not covering our expenses for some time, periodically supplementing ART TIMES with loans from our modest savings when necessary to meet our obligations.

More than once over the years — and especially during the last few — we’ve been asked why we stay in business. We look at each other, at the questioners, and mostly just shrug. But, Yes! Why do we continue? Our answer sounds a little corny — even silly, perhaps — but to put it into one word, the answer always was and remains: altruism. The word, derived from the Latin alter, meaning “other” (cf. e.g. ‘alternate’, ‘alternative’, ‘alter ego’, etc.) was perhaps not in our minds at the time, but the truth of the matter is that neither of us were typical “businesspeople” — Cornelia was a teacher, counselor, and networker while I was a teacher, poet, and essayist. So “making money” — beyond a “living” — was not foremost in our thinking/planning/creating an ‘arts journal’. Our primary goal was to create a forum for the arts, specifically a publication that would further, bolster, promote and broadcast the cultural riches of our region — a project that Cornelia would physically “make happen” and that I would edit and contribute to. After putting together a mock-up to “float” out into the world in the early summer of 1984, Voila! Volume 1, No. 1 of ART TIMES came “hot off the press” in August. We did it! The “artworld” was pleased and readily supported its production from the outset. Our resultant travels to art exhibitions, conferences, lectures, museums and culture venues across not only America, but to Europe and Asia as well, became business expenses that not only contributed to the success of ART times but greatly enriched our (and our readers’) lives. We saw places and met people that we most likely would have never experienced if not for our creation of ART TIMES.

However, as ‘enriched’ as we felt culturally by being able to support our travels, we never thought of including a regular weekly “salary” for either one of us, content to get along on covering the basics of every-day living.

Cornelia Seckel and Raymond J. Steiner. A toast as the last ink on paper issue of ART TIMES is done.

Cornelia Seckel and Raymond J. Steiner. A toast as the last ink on paper issue of ART TIMES is ready to go to the printer.

Altruism, although admirable…even desirable…is, however, not quite cutting it lately. Our resources have been rapidly dwindling, and in the Summer of 2016, in an effort to “stop the bleeding” we moved from publishing in print to a digital-only presence; by doing so we not only eliminated our major costs of printing and shipping, but the move also resulted in our getting our advertisers out to a global audience.

Still, perhaps a little bit of ‘business sense’ would have been helpful back then when we sort of rashly took the plunge. Thankfully, our readers and supporters have rapidly responded to our situation and we are so grateful both for their encouraging words and advertising dollars. Any guesses of what’s on the horizon?


Glimpses 7: Germany Italy Ireland

March 2, 2017

Originally intended as a small book, “Glimpses: In which a Casual Traveler Ruminates on Passing Scenes—1989-2011″, I should like to share it with my readers in a more informal manner as a series of Blogs.

Germany: Berlin: Passing under the Brandenburg arch (there was a time in Imperial Germany when only the royals were allowed to pass under this arch) and strolling along “Unter den Linden” (how many times had I read about this famous street!) and then a trolley ride with Heinrich to the Eastern side only one year after the wall came down. As we ride past the uniformly gray and drab city, I see tears in Heinrich’s eyes. I am sorry that we insisted on going to “take a look” (old Berlin Gallows humor: Airline Stewardess: “Welcome to Schönenfeld Airport! Please set your watches back forty years!”) The Russians deliberately retarded improvements—you could still see bullethole-ridden walls everywhere—to punish the Germans for WWII. How many sad memories this country has! At one point we got off the trolley and walked a few streets, stopped at a small store to buy sandwiches. The woman who waited on us was obviously pleased that we stopped in, delighted to discover that we had come from America. As she wrapped our lunch, she asked if we had a “messer” (a knife) to cut our sandwiches. We shook our head “no” and she turned back to her counter to pick one up and carefully wrap it before she tucked it into our bag. We protested, but she insisted that it would come in handy later. We were touched; to have so little yet to be so willing to give away one of her utensils to us. And a surprisingly pleasant memory as well!

Italy: Cinqueterra: Eating fresh calamari on the Ligurian shore. Delicious! Back to Portofino later that day, walking the ‘pedinale’ up on the hill behind the town.

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

Ireland: On the way through the Burrens to find the Cliffs of Mohrer, we get lost and stop to ask directions from a lone man walking the road. He speaks for several minutes while giving hand directions. Neither of us understood a word he said. We continue and find the cliffs on our own. Gusts off the Atlantic so strong that we could not stand upright — the wind got under one of my gloves and peeled it right off my hand! I would have lost it forever if I hadn’t grabbed it quickly. Wildly beautiful!

Northern Germany: On a houseboat trip through Germany’s northern lock-connected lakes a few years after the Wall came down in Berlin, we (Jacky, Jörg, Cornelia and I) dock at a small town on one of the larger lakes. At a gift shop I see caps on sale that read: “Middletown Police Department”! When I asked the lady behind the counter about them she said she knew nothing about the little town in upstate New York (a town in a neighboring county from where we live) or how the hats got to her store.

Germany: Malchow: On this same houseboat trip, when we came to the town of Malchow, there was a one mark “toll” to enter the town’s small harbor, the coin taken by a man on shore with a pouch at the end of a long flexible pole…what might he have done if we had ignored the small pouch dangling before our eyes?