Monday, June 14, 2010


Suddenly, there she stands - the glorious and exuberant “Pinkie.” And the longer I remain at the foot of her portrait, the lighter my heart becomes as I soak in the joy of the moment.

Here is the little girl on the verge of womanhood. Her lustrous shell-colored satin bonnet trails matching ribbons that fly in the wind. She is at once casual and elegant. Childlike and mature, as any 11 year-old might appear to be.

Even if you’ve seen a print of this oil you might not have caught the soft delicate shades the artist brushed into the original oil. Photos and color plates often show the clouds as menacing and dark – they’re not. Some prints show them tinged with red and orange – they are not that either. Instead, the fragile blue and frothy white clouds dance and shimmer in lively strokes that caress the canvass.

A bright breeze blows the diaphanous cream-colored fabric of her gown aside to expose the pointed toe of her little black shoe. The visual pun of her extended little “pinkie” finger is amusing but the gesture is a natural part of her casual pose.

This is a portrait of Sarah Barrett Moulton by Thomas Lawrence (1794). She was a member of the prosperous Barrett family from Jamaica. Did you know she is related to the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning? Her brother Edward was the poet’s father, and Sarah would have been Elizabeth’s aunt - had she lived. Sadly, she died within the year.

“Pinkie” is often thought of in tandem with Thomas Gainsborough’s “The Blue Boy”. Yet two different artists painted them some 24 years apart. For me “Pinkie” is the crown jewel of the vast collections of rare books, immense gardens and art at The Huntington in Pasadena, California.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Vibrant Las Vegas!

Stepping out of the terminal at McCarran airport in Las Vegas, the 110-degree June heat smacks you in the face like a hot iron.

Now that I’ve run the gauntlet of one-armed bandits and electronic billboards encircling the baggage carousels, I’m ready to head to the taxi line to pick up a ride to my hotel.

At Trump Tower there’s a corner room waiting for me on the 44th floor. In the morning I can see The Strip set against a backdrop of pearl grey mountains fringing the Mojave Desert. At night it sparkles with countless lights. Did you know that seen from space Las Vegas is the brightest city on earth?

In the suite, the main bathroom (and there are 2) is larger than my apartment in Chicago. Soaking in the Jacuzzi-style tub, I can see the city, or watch the TV embedded in the oversized mirror over the sink. It’s off-season, so I can afford a really nice room at great rates.

There’s no smoking in the whole building, and no casino here at Trump. Best of all I can get a complimentary late check out ‘til 4 pm.

I personally don’t gamble but am always real happy to lose a bundle at the dining table. And there are lots of choices all over town. Just off the lobby of Trump, DJT restaurant serves a beautiful assortment of appetizers. One or two will make a perfect size meal. That leaves me enough room for dessert.

Strolling around town, you begin to realize that nobody is actually “from” here. Yet they all manage to find their way to this dazzling down. Where else can you meet a taxi driver from Haiti, a waiter from the Philippines and a bouncer from Bulgaria all in the space of 1 hour?

Most folks say that business is picking up; people are coming back for the fun and excitement to be found here. Just outside the window, I can see the Wynn and Encore. I think I'll head on over there for lunch.

The energy of this town resonates with me. Viva Las Vegas!