Monday, April 6, 2015

Unearthing a new Pollock painting?

A "new" Jackson Pollock orginal?
Artists have long been attracted to the East End of Long Island, often citing the unique quality of the light, and as long as there have been artists, there have been those who follow them. The hamlet of the Springs, part of East Hampton town, was the preferred venue for a number of artists who lived there and gained fame in the 1940s through the 1960s, among them Willem de Koonig, Lee Krasner, and Jackson Pollock

Pollock's "painting shoes" on display at the
Pollock/Krasner House in East Hampton
Sadly, Pollock died in 1956 while driving drunk on the winding wooded roads that are part of the Spring's charm. The Pollock/Krasner House and studio where he and his wife Lee Krasner lived and worked is now owned and maintained by Stony Brook University, which operates tours of the property during the summer or by appointment. Many of our visitors to the area seek out the tiny property, where the biggest lure is the floor of Pollock's studio, which looks like one of his iconic canvasses.

Recently, newspapers reported that a previously unknown work by Jackson Pollock has been unearthed in California. According to Mark Palmer of the John Webber Agency, representing the owners who wish to remain anonymous, it had been donated to a New York thrift shop, where it was picked up by a collector, then another collector, then finally the present owners, who live in San Diego. 

If the painting is real, it could be worth $160 million. 

If it is real.

I am certainly no Pollock expert--hardly even an aficianado. I'd agree it looks rather like his studio floor. In fact, one of the "proofs" cited as provenance says that the authors of the report traveled to Pollock's studio and laid the painting on the floor, matching up the paint spatters. Really? Surely that would presume that the painting was done very late in his career, since the floor--not being an intentional work of art--was certainly not cleaned in between projects. Yet the painting is presumably circa 1947, some nine years before Pollack's untimely death. Matching up squiggles seems like a stretch. Another "proof" cites the microscopic presence of birch leaves, which reportedly did exist on the property, which to my mind provides a better argument.  Analysis of paint spatters, colors, etc. are more precise and are presented as part of the proof of provenance

The jury, as they say, is still out.

On your next visit to the Hamptons, check out the Pollock/Krasner House and see what you think. More information on touring the The Pollack/Krasner property can be found here.

Me, I think I'd spend $160 million on a waterfront property first.

Quote of the Day: Contrary to general belief, an artist is never ahead of his time but most people are far behind theirs. ---Edgard Varese

Friday, March 13, 2015

Open for the Season!

Frozen Lake Agawam

No snow on the beach!

South of the Highway tagger with a sense of humor
The sky is blue today and the forecast clear as we open A Butler's Manor for the 2015 season!

It was by all accounts a brutally cold and snowy winter here on the East End, which Chris and I missed entirely while on sabbatical in Southern California. We came home with suitcases of sunshine, though, and the snow has been melting ever since. (Maybe in another week, we'll be able to see the pool?)

Apart from the snow, all is well. Roads are clear and the year round shops and restaurants are open and welcoming. If you've never taken a walk on a winter beach you are in for a treat...the sand is firm underfoot and the empty beach is absolutely pristine.

Long Island Winterfest--Live on the Vine, is a six-week, midwinter music festival that takes place in the North Fork winery tasting rooms, historic theaters, hotels and other venues through the end of March. A total of over seventy different events, featuring a diverse lineup of jazz, folk, rock, blues, world music, and more are scheduled Fridays through Sundays. Check out their calendar of events here.

Back at A Butler's Manor after a day out exploring, you'll find our crackling fireplace a welcoming place to enjoy a cup of tea or a glass of wine.

We look forward to your visit!

Quote of the Day: There is a privacy about it which no other season gives you. . . In spring, summer and fall people sort of have an open season on each other; only in the winter, in the country, can you have longer, quiet stretches when you can savor belonging to yourself. --Ruth Stout

March 9, 2015: Until the flowers in the garden start to bloom....

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A touch of East Hampton in Newport Beach

In the middle of vacation, a yummy little reminder of home.

I was at a book club meeting last month in Laguna Beach when a fellow foodie here asked me if I'd heard of Babette's. No context given.

"There's a well-known organic restaurant in East Hampton called Babette's, know for its creative breakfasts and healthy, often vegetarian options," I answered, mystified. "Why?"

"It just opened a second location here in Newport Coast."

Really? I had to check that out. Sure enough, closer to our winter abode than the original Babette's is to A Butler's Manor, it was too good a chance to overlook, not the least because we haven't been able to have brunch at Babette's since we opened A Butler's Manor in 2002 (as of course we're cooking and serving our own breakfast during that time),

So the other day Chris and I headed up Pacific Coast Highway to the brand-new West Coast enclave of the East Hampton favorite with the most recent (forwarded) copy of the Southampton Press tucked under Chris's arm.

Babette's Newport Coast is quite roomy and gorgeous, in the off-white coastal California style that is 180 degrees from the small, casually beachy theme of the original on Newtown Lane. We opted for the patio, which featured a gas firepit that was lit in spite of the 60+ degree exterior temps (but ended up being extinguished at the request of a woman seated closest to it). Stellar service. The menu, I was pleased to see, was almost the same as its delicious East End counterpart, with a few nods to local specialties. I therefore had a Newport Omelette, and Chris opted for the Ace of Clubs sandwich, which certainly lived up to its name. And the accompanying sweet potato fries, done with a herb blend, were the best I have ever had.

We were pleased that owner Barbara Layton was in town and happy to see fellow Hamptons refugees. We passed along our copy of the Press and spent some time discussing the similarities and differences between the two resort areas and the people within each. I think all of us felt a little homesick.

Now we can check in with a favorite restaurant on both coasts. What's next -- the Golden Pear?

This isn't the first time we've encountered folks from back East while on our sabbatical in California. Last winter on our way down to the beach, we passed a woman walking her dog who takes yoga with Southampton. In January we were dining at Nirvana Grille in Laguna Beach when we recognized Steve and Miriam, guests of A Butler's Manor who live in NYC.

It's a big country, but a small world. (Sorry, couldn't resist...)

Incidentally, we'll reopen for the 2015 season on Friday, March 13. See you then!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Until the street lights come on

Back in what seems like the proverbial olden days now, we were allowed to play outside after dinner until the street lights came on, which signalled the day's end and time to come inside. This weekend marks the end of Daylight Savings Time, which means those street lights are going to come on an hour earlier.

It's nearing time for A Butler's Manor to have its bath, get into jammies, and go to bed.

For us, "bath" means making the necessary upgrades or repairs, refreshes, and general maintenance that we don't want to do while guests are in residence trying to relax. (Believe me, we've tried to do it before with guests in residence. Among other things, it's a mighty slow process when your available workday is roughly 11 AM to 3 PM.)  We know that someone wielding a power sander on the shingles outside the house or a chain saw on errant branches doesn't make for a very Zen-like experience to someone inside.

The gardeners among you might appreciate Chris's wheelbarrow full of plant trim as he goes about cutting back those plants whose foliage doesn't overwinter well, and pulling the bulbs from the beds, cleaning and drying them for their winter storage. Others might find the fallen leaves and dried seed heads as architecturally interesting as I do. But it's time to shut down the sprinkler system, put the winter blanket on the pool, take down the umbrellas, and bring in the patio furniture.

We'll be taking care of this sort of business beginning next week, November 3 through November 20, 

Join us for A Butler's Manor's last hurrah of 2014 when we reopen for the last ten days of the month of November. Kick off the holiday shopping season and support Small Business Saturday (November 29) by shopping Southampton's eclectic little shops. You'll find the elves (a.k.a. the Village Parks Department) will have installed and decorated the parade of Christmas trees that line Main Street and Job's Lane. and created the wonderland of sparkling white lights that outline the deciduous trees and buildings. The village's annual Parade of Lights and Tree Lighting will be held about 5:00 PM at Agawam Park, complete with carolers and refreshments afterwards. A good, crisp late autumn chill is almost guaranteed to be the weather forecast; a perfect time to wrap a scarf around your neck as you wander hand in hand with someone you love. Come on back to A Butler's Manor where we'll have a wood fire burning in the fireplace in the living room. 

Then it's time for beddy-byes, as we close on December 1, 2014 for our winter sabbatical.

It's been a great year. Thank you to all!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Planting ahead

PeeGee Hydrangea in full Fall glory!
It's been so lovely to feel Fall come in, to take my early morning walk at o'dark thirty increasingly when it IS still dark and need a jacket and even -- yikes! -- gloves. And then there's today, when at 6:00 AM a light cloud cover increased the temperature 20 degrees over the previous day: 65 vs. 46. No jacket on my walk. And for the next couple of days, maybe my last chance to wear flip flops.

Perfect weather for starting a new garden.

As I've explained to nearly everyone who knows us, Chris is the gardener and my only contribution is to point and suggest. To that end, we have been discussing for a few months now how to do a long border garden opposite the pool.

This past weekend began the digging and clearing of miles of ivy. We've been the beneficiary of a load of small buddleia (butterfly bushes) which will form anchors in the garden. Existing Annabelle and lacecap hydrangeas, a smoke bush, and a backdrop of forsythia will remain. To this we plan to add more groups of rudbeckia (black eyed Susans), grasses great and small, and a host of cannas, dahlias, and roses in shades of yellows and oranges, with touches of deep blue. Here's the space.

(sigh.) We've got a looooong way to go!

On a different note: I've written before about times when it seemed all the guests were from the United Kingdom, or Australia, or otherwise international. Well, this week, the tables turn -- all of our guests are from, or have ties to, Southern California. A foursome travelling from Arizona met while at Chapman College (now Chapman University) in the City of Orange, my home town. Another guest now lives in Northern California but grew up in Orange too...only a couple of miles from me. Another couple arrive today from San Clemente, on the southern tip of Orange County. And another guest lived in Huntington Beach and La Jolla for years and years. So this will be the week of the "non-accent" that folks from the East Coast still swear is recognizable as West Coast, ha! (What accent, dude?)

A recent guest from Australia shot this photo of us against our autumn mantle. I should have dressed to match the season better...

Speaking of the season, as weather cools, our tastes begin to crave the comfort food associated with fall and winter. Now is the time for the scent of cinnamon and cloves and ginger, and so I am making and serving breads, muffins, french toasts and pancakes with ingredients such as pumpkin, apples, pears. cranberries, and egg nog. This truly is my favorite season of the year.

Happy Fall!
Quote of the day: Work is love made visible. And if you can’t work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gates of the temple and take alms of the people who work with joy. ---Kahlil Gibran

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

You mean the Hamptons are still busy after Labor Day??

On Labor Day, one of our guests stopped by the kitchen at 11:05 to say she would be checking out late, after she’d had her run and a shower. I assured her that we had downstairs facilities for her to shower and change, but she needed to have her bags out of her room at our standard 11:00 AM check out time because we needed to clean it for arriving guests.

Her eyebrows went up. “You mean you have people coming in today?”

There is a common misconception among many of our summer visitors that somehow the Hamptons roll up like a yoga mat, put away until next Memorial Day. That the oceans somehow turn arctic cold on Tumbleweed Tuesday, and that all the shops and restaurants close and move to their winter locations in West Palm Beach.

Ah, but you and I know differently. With the advent of autumn, the Hamptons become an entirely different type of destination. Summer lingers on through September with temperate weather and still-warm oceans and bays. And correspondingly, different types of visitors come to appreciate our unique beauty and charm.

First of all, the oft-forgotten former economic engine of the Hamptons – farming – revs its motor as the leaves begin to turn colors. While summer guests appreciate our farm stands, it is fall where they really shine as the harvest gets underway. Corn, zucchini, sun-ripened tomatoes, potatoes, greens, squash and much more overflow their bushel baskets. And speaking of squash, beginning mid-September, nothing can beat our East End farms for agritourism. Pumpkin picking? Bring the family and grab a red wagon and spend hours at Hank’s Pumpkintown…the kids enjoying the slides and forts and climb-aboard tractors before picking out the perfect enormous pumpkin in the field. Or opt for an elegant cream or sage-colored pumpkin from the flatbed parked at the Milk Pail, where you can choose to do your picking from one of the Halsey family's twenty different varieties of apples in the adjacent orchard and pick up a container of the freshest local apple cider available. You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy a corn maze, and one of the best is to be found on Horsemill Road at Fairview Farm, where the "maize" (a pun on Indian corn) is carefully cut each year into a design that, viewed from the air, is a work of art. Choose from almost a dozen different trivia categories to help you navigate the maize. Questions are multiple choice; your answer will determine whether you should turn right or left when faced with such an intersection.

Fall means cooler temperatures, when outdoor activities often benefit from a bike ride is a perfect outdoor choice. And with beach traffic nonexistent, a perfect cycling excursion might be to wend your way through the estate districts where wide, tree-lined streets are almost empty of drivers. Rent a boat from Strong’s Marine and spend a day exploring Peconic or Shinnecock Bay, or hire a kayak and paddle through places like Georgica Pond or Northwest Creek, where your only company may be the egrets and ospreys. Fall is also the perfect time to hike Mashomack Preserve, the Nature Conservancy’s vast 2100-acre property that comprises nearly a third of Shelter Island.

And then, of course, there are our wineries. The harvesting of grapes is a big event (Wolffer Estate’s Harvest Party sells out every year) and all the East End wineries are in their full glory. Look for wine tasting events, weekend entertainment in many of the South Fork’s three and the North Fork’s almost fifty vineyards.

For well over 100 years, artists have flocked to the East End to paint, and with the fall comes that season of light where you can completely understand their motivation. The sun, lower on the horizon, casts a peerless golden glow over our farmfields and dunes. It’s Mother Nature’s blessing on the East End.

Fall means festivals, notably SeptemberFest in Southampton (September 26-28), the Montauk Seafood Festival (September 13-14), Harborfest, the celebration of Sag Harbor’s whaling history (also September 13-14), and the San Gennaro feast in Hampton Bays (October 4-5). Check out the Arts and Crafts fair in Westhampton Beach (October 11-12), the Fine Art show in Bridgehampton, or the Chili Cookoff in Hampton Bays.All feature events and activities for the entire family. 

And oh yes, our restaurants are still open. As are our shops. Parking is easier, and so is traffic, compared to steamy August weekends.

In short, whether you’ve experienced the Hamptons during our summer heyday or never before, the season of plenty is a wonderful time to visit!

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Piano Man, and other musical notes

The one antique at A Butler's Manor to which I can trace the entire provenance is our 1912 Chase & Baker player piano, which has been in my mother's family since the year it was built. It spent its first forty years in the Chicago area where my mother grew up, journeyed to Los Angeles when she married and dominated our family room there for the next forty years before coming to me in 1999. I worried originally that its elderly parts, perhaps desiccated by arid California climate, would crumble amidst the seasonal changes and frequent humidity of the East End. Instead, I found to my delight that the old girl obviously relished the change of scenery; her tone only grew rounder and more mellow once transplanted to the Hamptons.

As anyone who has visited A Butler's Manor knows, the upright piano with its original black walnut case anchors the two parts of our living room (once two separate rooms, a front parlor and back parlor). Guests are invited to play if they know how (please, no Chopsticks!). Once in a while someone takes us up on it and its plummy notes pour forth, the acoustics of the wood balanced by the brick-over-wood floor and the large, open space. The music will draw me from my office in the back of the house as surely as a bee to pollen (or--a timely analogy--as a wasp to orange juice).

Once, we were thrilled to be hosting a professional classical pianist who was in town to perform at a benefit. I was almost afraid to offer her my little old upright piano, but she was happy to have a piano available and practiced one of her numbers that afternoon prior to her recital. It was magical. 

Occasionally, guests take an interest in the old player and either Chris or I pull forth a piano roll (I have about 100 of them) and demonstrate. The player piano is activated by pedals that you pump, sort of like an eliptical machine. (And oy, is it a workout! Once upon a time, I could pedal that piano all night, but now? Hah. If I played a roll or two every day I'd probably be in much better shape.)

So even though I don't (yet) play myself, it is important to me that the piano remain as tuned as a 100+ year old piano can, and that task we entrust to Mike Scianetti, owner of the Piano Barn in Water Mill. In addition to being a business owner, Mike is  a professional musician, singer and songwriter.

Watching Mike tune the piano is fascinating. First, he lifts the top lid which allows him to gently pull the faceplace away, exposing the tuning pins and string (wires), dampers and hammers. You can see below the box in the middle where the player piano roll is inserted, and below it, the brass tracker duct, cut with 88 tiny diagonal holes, each representing a key on the piano keyboard. Behind the box is a pneumatic that feeds the bellows that somehow (engineering not being my strong suit) transfers the impetus caused by a roll of paper pricked with thousands of holes (that represent notes) into action which depresses the keys and produces... music. It still amazes me.

What the pictures don't show here is that he also pulls away the face frame located below the keyboard, which exposes the bellows necessary to transfer the pedal action to the spool box. My engineer father mended one of these bellows when I was an adolescent, but otherwise they, like the rest of the piano's works and case, are completely untouched and original. On a recent visit, Mike told us the bellows could use a little operation that will require flipping the piano onto its back and hence won't be done until winter, when the quiet season allows us the possibility of turning the entire front parlor into a piano operating theater.

My favorite aspect of getting the piano tuned is that Mike plays it as he works to check his machinations. He uses all or as much of the keyboard as possible, to check the veracity of both the low and high ends of the sound spectrum. To this end, he'll play a selection of pieces ranging from classical to ragtime (my request always) to popular works. His tuning sessions feel like a mini-concert. I know today's modern keyboards are phenomenal pieces of musical engineering, but to my ears, the sound of a hand-crafted wooden piano has a richness and depth incomparable to its modern counterparts. Listening to the pure, sonorous notes reignites my desire to learn to play other than with my feet.

And speaking of concerts and of classical music, we are in the midst of the annual month-long Bridgehampton Music Festival. This series is about as different from the casual Concerts in the Park series or weekly live entertainment at the Wine Stand at Wolffer Estates as one can get in the Hamptons, proving that, especially in the summer, there are opportunities for everyone's musical tastes. Most of the Bridgehampton Music Festival concerts are held at the Bridgehampton Presbyterian Church (wonderful acoustics!) and all events are ticketed in advance. (Act fast! Only a few dates left!) I've been to a couple of the concerts, and they are masterful.I've always found that classical music has a special ability to soothe the soul.

On that note (ha!), maybe I'll pull out one of the classical piano rolls and get a physical workout along with a mental de-stress....maybe Franz von Suppe's Light Calvary Overture...

Quote of the Day: “If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.” ― Albert Einstein