Friday, September 24, 2010


A heartfelt thanks to everyone who contributed to our wonderful conversation on Zorba and the philosophy of his creator, Nikos Kazantzakis.  May the spirit of Zorba always find a place to dance in your souls.

It's an impossibly beautiful day here on the Chesapeake Bay, a day that summons me to take a walk around the Inner Harbor of Baltimore, which is only about sixty miles from where I live.  I want to just amble around the docks and back streets to discover whatever can be discovered, and then celebrate my discoveries with a late lunch at a good Lebanese restaurant.  Join me!  It's a great place to be when the the constant changes of shapes, shadows, lines, and colors make one part and parcel of a giant, magical kaleidoscope.

Since you are not here with me physically, you will have to walk with your eyes and see what I see, which, as readers will know, is sometimes representational and sometimes abstract.  So, here we go, beginning with the photo above, which is a view of the modern structures of the National Aquarium against the background or older, traditional architecture.  I love the way the angles and intensity of the modern relieve the vertical and horizontal designs of the older buildings.

Below is one of the reflections I am finding on the rippled waters that catch the slanted light of the early morning sun.  The creations of nature leave me in awe.  I just have to remember to always look for beauty in unexpected places.

The Inner Harbor was once a pocket of urban blight.  Thanks to visionaries like the late developer and urban planner, James W. Rouse, however, the Inner Harbor is now a beautiful, eclectic mix of restaurants, museums, bookstores, shops, and historical sites.  Mixing the modern with the traditional is always a risky business, but it seems to work in Baltimore's Inner Harbor — at least for me.  

In the photo below, the National Aquarium is on the right; the old lighthouse ship, "Chesapeake," is on the bottom;   and the building above the ship's rear mast is an old power generation plant that was transformed into magnificent offices, a Barnes and Noble Bookstore, and a Hard Rock Cafe.  The developer's effort to integrate the new with the old  is appealing to my wabi-sabi spirit.

One of the strangest discoveries of this day is the reflection below.  Everything in this photo is just a reflection — no debris, no paper — yet I cannot help but think that I have discovered the fragments of some ancient map, or perhaps the tattered remains of some wisdom written in hieroglyphics.

This is the stern of the US Frigate Constellation (1797 - 1853), which was used extensively during the War of 1812.

Anchored in a canal behind the old power plant, currently a Barnes and Noble Bookstore, is the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter "Taney."  More fascinating to me, however, are the surreal  reflections in the windows of the building to the right of the vessel:

As I continue my little walk, I discover many other abstract designs that please me, including an interesting convergence of geometrical shapes behind the National Aquarium (photo immediately below) and more colorful reflections in the water.

This old "tall ship" is now one of the historic vessels of the U.S. Coast Guard. Below is the facade of a new office building that I see in the distance.  I like the abstract design and appreciate the fact that someone has just opened a single window to provide the focal point I was searching for.

Sorry, folks, but I just can't get enough of these reflections.  Is Monet up there somewhere, dabbling small splotches of rich color on the harbor waters?

Two other photos and then we're off to lunch.  The first is a view of the Baltimore landscape as it appears from the south side of the Inner Harbor.  The second is a bit of whimsy — a whirligig at the American Visionary Art Museum, a fascinating place that is also on the south side of the harbor.

The wildlife must eat and so must I . . .

May I recommend the Lebanese Taverna and suggest the Taverna Mezza (above) with a glass of chilled pinot grigio.  Now, that's a great day.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!


  1. Wow, George, that Baltimore experience was absolutely fantastic! I loved the photos, specially the 'hieroglyphic' one, which I think is superb, and full of mystery and wonder. And I want that Lebanese Taverna food now. Right this instant! Also I want that crispness of image (sometimes) in my own photos - were these still taken with your Canon G10?

  2. You are my kind of guy, George. These are just the kinds of walks I do on my own too, in Chicago, or NY, or in my Michigan towns. Then lunch just like that! Beautiful.

    The reds really popped, and you composed them perfectly in each frame with buildings. The reflection shots, especially the hieroglyphics, feed me too. Another looks like a flag.

    Your artistic eye is a joy. I relax in it, and in the aesthetics of your blog space. That's an important thing to me. And I feel a strong sense of peace and balance here. I think your eye does that.

    Now that lunch is done (literally for me), I will go into my afternoon appointments full, and rested. Thank you.

  3. To Robert,

    Thanks for the comments and I'm glad you liked the photos. The hieroglyphic photo continues to amaze me. It's rather shocking to discover that these types of things are happening around us every day.

    When you visit this area, Robert, as I hope you will one day, rest assured that I will buy you lunch or dinner at the Lebanese Taverna.

    I used both my Nikon equipment and the Canon G10 on my trip the the Inner Harbor. It's hard to remember which was used for certain photos. The photos of the reflections, however, we taken with the Nikon and a 105 mm macro lens.

    Have a good weekend.

  4. To Ruth,

    Your "kind of guy," and on top of that, you feel "peace and balance" on my site. These are the best compliments I have heard in a long time! I can see that I will need to work even harder to live up to that image. Thanks so much, as always, for the kind thoughts and comments — and have great weekend!

  5. George…

    Well, your post and pics—especially the reflection shots—didn't disappoint, not that I expected them to, mind you. What they did do, however, was exceed my expectations by not being just great, but magnificent! I think the first four could be framed as a series. I guess (if pressed to do so) the "map" image is my favorite reflection, though to me it looks like a sort of aerial view of a watery corner of Ireland or Wales, with many little ponds and bogs, and lots of ancient stone walls outlining and dividing various fields and landholdings. But (not counting the window reflection) I like reflection # 4 a lot, too…and #1…and #3…and the final pair…and the window. Dang it, it's like going to a family reunion down South, with all those food-laden tables, and shambling up to the one with 37 different homemade pies and having to choose.

    And speaking of food, your meal looks yummy. The perfect lunch for an artist on the prowl. Just a terrific post all around!

  6. To Grizz,

    Before I respond to your very kind and generous comments on the photos, I will need to stop chuckling from your statement about going to a family reunion down South. Being from the South originally, I know all too well what you are talking about.

    I'm delighted, of course, that you liked the images, especially the one that appears to be fragments from an ancient map. I took that near dockside where people were strolling and the reflections were changing every few seconds. I can only assume that the reflection of someone's clothing, perhaps a woman' skirt.

    Thanks again, not only for the compliments, but for the first good laugh of the day. Good luck on your appointment with the optometrist today.

    Oh, I almost forgot to remind you that my offer to Robert, "The Solitary Walker," stands with you as well. If you ever make it to these environs, rest assured that I will be happy to buy you (and perhaps your ladylove) lunch at the Lebanese Taverna.

  7. George: These are really gorgeous photos. Is it your camera, or are the colors really that bright and distinct in Baltimore? I was struck with how clean and clear everything is. Including your prose, by the way. For all the beauty of the Inner Harbor, I missed seeing Camden Yards. One of the prettiest ballparks in the country, in this Dodger fan's opinion. Best to you - I'll be back. EFH

  8. Wonderful pictures, and my first thought was to ask myself if this was how impressionists got their first inkling of how to look at things. Ya had me up till the I need to get out of work and find me something that good to eat!! Not a bad way to begin my weekend either!

  9. To Expat,

    Nice to hear from you, Expat, and thanks for the nice comments on the photos. It's not the camera; it's the clean, crisp autumn air, the lovely morning light, and many years of experience that have taught me, first, to look for beauty in unexpected places, and, second, that almost anything can be beautiful in the right light.

    Sorry I left out Camden Yards, which is about three blocks from the Inner Harbor. You're right, however. It's a beautiful ballpark.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  10. I meant to say in my first comment (why do I always do this? come back and say something else? well, I think it's a sign that I like your blog, either that or I get scatterbrained with so much inspiration) that when I saw your title, I got goosebumps, thinking it was metaphorical for an inner place within yourself. I think it would make a nice book title by you, George. Now you have a constellation, and a book. For all I know maybe you already have a book.

  11. To Ksam,

    Thanks for the comments, and, yes, I think that this is exactly how the Impressionists got started; they began to look at the reality of light, not just the preconceived notion of the thing, scene, or figure they were attempting to paint. Material reality is not just the object, but the object and the light through which it is perceived.

    I hope that you found something as delicious as I had on my day in Baltimore. Have a nice weekend.

  12. To Ruth,

    You are getting into my head, Ruth, eerily. When I first typed in the title to this posting, I had the same thought, specifically, that this would be a great introduction to a piece on the workings of the spirit — the inner life. It was all that I could do to resist the temptation to take that path. We all need a little diversion, however, and this was a good day to do a lighter piece. Needless to say, however, I live and breathe in the other Inner Harbor, and will return to talk more about that soon.

    Have a great weekend, and thanks for making mine nicer.

  13. George! I am running out of superlatives. What stunning photographs! They all look like they could have jumped off of the page of National Geographic.

    I particularly loved the reflection shots. Like Grizz, I was going to suggest they would make incredible abstract art and should be framed.

    The photograph of the glass walled building with one window open is perfectly composed and I would be thrilled to hang it in my home. Perhaps it takes a composed soul to transfer his inner composition outward on to a surface, with pen, paint or camera.

    Stellar work!

  14. To Bonnie,

    Thanks and more thanks, Bonnie. I am especially glad that you liked the photo of the glass walled building with one window opened. I had seen the building earlier in the day and I liked both the monochromatic appearance and the repetition of form. I needed a small break in the form, however, and I saw it when I looked up about an hour later and saw that someone had opened a lone window. That made it for me, and I'm delighted you noticed.

    What you say about the relationship of inner composition to artistic composition is interesting because I have always believed that what works in art also works in life. More specifically, good art, regardless of the medium of expression, requires both order and variety — variety to relieve the boredom of order, and order to save us from the chaos of nothing but variety. Cannot the same thing be said of life? I think it can.

    Thanks again, and have a great weekend!

  15. Hi George, I think I mentioned that we once lived on the Chesapeake (Havre de Grace). Inner Harbor was a favorite boating destination for us. I enjoyed revisiting the harbor scenes. But, my favorite photos were of the reflections - Nature's abstracts. The colors and shapes you captured could be framed and hung as modern art. Have a happy weekend.

  16. To Barb,

    Thanks for the lovely comments. I'm delighted that my photos helped to revive some memories of the Inner Harbor, which is now better than ever, especially on the eastern flank near Fells Point. I, too, love the abstracts, as you can probably see from earlier postings. Have a great weekend yourself!

  17. I have just found my way here from The Solitary Walker's blog- and I am quite blown away. The reflections you have captured are just magnificent, on water and buildings. I know I will be back...

  18. Hi Kiwi Nomad,

    Nice to have a Kiwi visiting my site. I am delighted that you liked the photos and I hope you will make a return visit.

    I see that you are a fellow walker and wanderer. Given those passions, you might be interested in checking out the photos of my recent coast-to-coast hike across England. There are five or six postings relating to the trip, and they can be found in the June and July archives on the sidebar.

    Thanks again for the visit and have a nice day.

  19. WOW...I almost forgot to breathe! Such beautiful, bright photos and Blog!

  20. Hi Wanda,

    Thanks, as always, for the lovely comments. I hope you like the larger format, which I think improves the display of the photos. Have a nice day — and please breathe.

  21. The eye-watering post ends with a mouth-watering Lebanese meal. Great. Although my father was born in Brooklyn, his parents were from Lebanon/Syria. All of the family get-togethers in Brooklyn with my father's side of the family were celebrated with Lebanese food, so I am very, very fond of the cuisine.

    The photos are great. I especially appreciate them, because I only know the old Baltimore with its horrifying blight. I have heard, since long ago, about what a nice city harbour had emerged from the renewal, but had never had the luck of being offered such a charmed and charming tour.

    Like you, I was particularly amazed by the one of the "tattered remains" of some lost hieroglypic wisdom. Hope to join you at the restaurant there some day. George. I'll ask to have my taboule and baba ganoush served on a rosetta stone.

  22. To Lorenzo,

    Thanks, my friend, for the lovely comments. It's interesting to hear about your Lebanese family connection. With this connection and the others I have read about, you must have eaten quite well throughout your life. To continue that tradition, I assure you that you will be my guest for lunch on your next visit to this area. Finding good tabouleh and baba ganoush will be no problem, but finding the rosetta stone will require a little more effort. I live close to the Smithsonian, however, and I'm confident that they can provide some assistance.

  23. I'm back, George. Surprised? :D

    Another thing I thought of when I first read this post, and forgot to mention (I'm not losing my mind, I'm not losing my mind), is that we have a modern art museum being built on campus two buildings away from mine. I work on the old side of campus, and my red brick building is 100+ years old. I love the old campus, with its old beech and sycamore trees. The new museum was designed by Zaha Hadid, the Iraqi architect and first woman to receive the Pritzker. So far it's just a big hole with plumbing and foundation being laid, but the design looks like a chrome spaceship. It's asymmetrical and one side actually leans over the road. Many have bemoaned this design in such a traditional part of campus. But I have to say, I look forward to it and support it for what it represents: MODERN! I posted on it once and will monitor its progress on my blog now and then. Oh, and it was completely funded by Eli Broad, the great endower of MoMA and everything else.

  24. To Ruth,

    As always, I'm happy when your back with a new comment. Mixing the modern with the old and traditional is always a challenge, but I believe that good architects, who are concerned not only with the modern building, but also with the siting of it, can bring it off. As for the public, I just think we need to wait and be willing to see things from a new perspective. Everything that evolves is a threat to the status quo, but evolve we must. I think of the controversy created when Monet painted "Impression: Sunrise." Now, Impressionism seems to be everyone's favorite type of painting.

    By the way, go back and read the most recent comment on Kazantzakis. Deborah has left a comment in which she endorsed your discussion on bliss — and may the week ahead be blissful to you.

  25. I am in awe, and deeply appreciative, of your photographic skills. The consistency of the color palette along with the crisp, beautifully framed images created a photo essay is of the highest caliber. My favorites: the abstract behind the aquarium, the first photo with the turquoise blue sky and the white cruiser to balance it all out, the lone open window, oh heck, they're all great. Thanks for sharing your walk and your lunch - it was delish!

  26. To Dutchbaby,

    Thanks so much, Dutchbaby, for our kind and generous comments. You are the first to comment on the abstract from behind the aquarium. I really appreciate that because I really found the convergence of geometric shapes to be interesting. Oh, and I hope you enjoyed the lunch as much as I did.

  27. What an interesting place the Inner Harbour looks, I love the boats especially the Constellation and the old Coastguard 'tall ship'. The reflections in the water are really beautiful and as you say very Monetesque. It seems to be quite common these days to restore the old run down waterfront areas of cities, something similar has been done to the old docks in Ipswich in Suffolk which is now a really pleasant place to both live in and visit.
    Lunch looks delicious, I've never eaten Lebanese food so that alone would be an adventure for me:)

  28. To Rowan,

    Thanks, Rowan. I'm delighted that you liked the photos and enjoyed this little corner of my world. By all mean, find some Lebanese food if you can; it's always sensational. Have a good week.

  29. absolutely incredible.

    I think that there is something incredibly moving about someone who wishes to share what he sees , and then finds the way to do it with such clarity , power and yet a sense of invitation. You are an artist. I am in awe.

  30. To Deb,

    Thanks for the very lovely and generous comments, Deb. I'm delighted that you enjoyed this little walk around the Inner Harbor with me. Have a nice day.