Saturday, March 19, 2011

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bulletin: Toshi Otsuki in Japan UPDATE

We've just heard that all of Toshi Otsuki's family is safe.

We are so grateful for this good news, but saddened for all those who are distressed at this very trying time.

Best wishes to you all,

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Bulletin: Toshi Otsuki in Japan

We are all praying for the people of Japan. The news reports strike fear in our hearts for all, but especially those we know personally.

Toshi Otsuki, our incomparable photographer for Victoria, and his wife Michiko are safe in their home near Ito City. They retired there several years ago, and both keep active gardening, enjoying their home and pets, and with Toshi's singing career.

I know many of the Victoria family have been worried about him. There are Otsuki family members who were in the hardest hit areas of northern Japan, and we continue to pray for them. Survivors will have a long road of recovery ahead of them.

It had been my intention to visit Japan this month as I have been thinking about going to see Toshi and Michiko for several years. Our family's comings and goings didn't make it possible. But now I am especially committed. Toshi sent a DVD as a Christmas card this year and it brought tears to my eyes to recall all the years we worked so successfully together.

In Toshi's video is a blow-up of one of the photographs he took for Victoria. It was a cover--a woman in 1920's dress with a fetching hat. It has always been one of my favorites, and I was pleased to see how it has stayed in his life and home. I have an enlarged photograph of a woman with roses in my apartment in Westchester. Toshi's very best work was in fashion and in the garden. Putting him around a flower was like seeing the beginning of a love affair. (I have been thinking of ways to bring Toshi's incredible record of Central Park for over 30 years in every season to the public.)

And so I am very relieved that his home is intact and his garden about to bloom into spring. But to all the people of Japan who are not so fortunate, we send our heartfelt prayers.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


I have become a firm believer in the concept of providence in my life. In My First Best Friend, I included a section about how "chance" brought old friends together. This past week, I had an incident in my life that I think qualifies as providential.

When I was in college, I worked summers and vacations at a wonderful sandwich shop and bakery in Bridgeport, Connecticut. For readers of Packing for a Woman's Journey, you might recall the story I wrote about the staff and how supportive they were of me and my college years. Recently, for some reason I can't really explain, I decided to see if the bakery was still operating. I knew in my heart of hearts it was not--but there might be a historical reference online to refresh my mind as to the address. Certainly the city has changed.

I found a few references to ads that the Harkabus Bakery & Sandwich Shop has placed over the years--and then, astonishingly, a reference in a new book called Keeping the Feast. The author, Paula Butturini, recalled going there with her mother whenever her mother developed a yen for a cream cheese on date nut bread sandwich.

Like a duck on a junebug, I ordered the book--and decided to write an email to the author, who has a very good website. I asked Paula if she could guide me to the Harkabus reference, and I told her a little about me and my connection to this place which she described so affectionately. Paula wrote right back!

Paula's book is not just about food memories of growing up Italian in Bridgeport and what that meant in her life, especially the food memories. It is a testament to the daily eloquence of preparing and enjoying meals in many circumstances. I hope you will look into the book as it is an inspiration as to how to deal with what most of us would deem almost insurmountable. Her experiences as a foreign correspondent are not ones that most of us would encounter. But she talks to her readers in a vernacular of fruit, vegetables, and the ingredients that sustain us.

Paula and I seemed to have a lot in common--including wonderful Italian grandfathers who brought drama to our appreciation of food and family. I feel that I know her--and hope that we can find a way to visit face to face one of these days.

I have to thank Providence and the internet for bringing me a new vision of the important things in life, and of what has been something I have always believed in: the power of love and the importance of memory in our lives. Do look into Paula's book. I guarantee you it will reward you in many ways. And if you love to cook, you will be humming in the kitchen, chopping away at garlic and sauteing rice in good olive oil in no time at all.