SEPTEMBER 20-22, 2002

Harry Knaster

Harry Knaster is one of my dearest friends from medical school. He was a kindred spirit, someone who was stunned by the aggressiveness, cruelty of many of our classmates and teachers, seeking out humanity and kindness in a world of dishonesty and indifference. He went to Boston for training, for work, and for a cleansing experience. He was a doctor in Vietnam and saw terrible things. We haven't seen each other much--just two reunions and a couple of short visits over the past 40 years, but with some friends you can just pick up where you last left off in mid-sentence. Harry lives in Monterey, near Pebble Beach in Carmel. He's an internist, and his wife, Alana, is a director of planning for the counnty. He is tanned. He is organic. He is California.

We had been talking a few months ago about going to the medical school reunion, but, since no one else was going, we decided to get together ourselves. Harry flew all the way out just to be with us. We were very touched. He flew in Friday morning, looking pretty much the same as he did 40 years ago. We took the tour of Providence, driving around, reminiscing. We had lunch on Federal Hill at Mediterraneo, hoping to bump into Buddy Cianci. He wasn't there, but we had a table outside on Atwells Avenue, and the food (lobster ravioli and an antipasto) was delicious. We stopped in at Costantino's Venda Ravioli for a little shopping and bought some cerignola olives and some Tallegio cheese, then on to Siravo's for some fruit and vegetables. Then on to the RISD Museum, where we saw old favorites--French impressionists, the bronze statue of a nude potbellied Balzac, the mummy, and Buddha. Also on display was the same exhibit of frightening German expressionist poster art that we had seen at the Wolfsonian in Florida.

Der ewige Jude

We made a short stop to see Mr. Friendly, Alan Brier, who was at the Miriam Hospital, minus one prostate. He looked mahhhvelous!! Then up to the apartment, where we met Carol, who was preparing dinner for Shabbat and Sukkot. I went out to get my mother for dinner, and we had chicken in the clay pot, which just fell off the bone. Carol, you outdid yourself! We also had a raisin hallah from Barney's that was even better than a Zomick's from New Jersey.

Saturday morning, French toast with the magical hallah. Then, on to Newport, where we drove around Ocean Drive and spent a gorgeous afternoon on Second Beach with a picnic of various salads and wine.

We returned to Providence on Saturday night and went downstairs to stroll around Waterfires. This was a full Waterfire, with wonderful music, and the river lit for its entire length.


Wood stokers..Avalon at Center Place

There were mobs of people, all strolling around peacefully, friendly, smiling. It's such a wonderful event that celebrates Providence and life and wonder and the arts and being human. There were performance artists here and there, fire-eaters, jugglers, magicians, and even an angel, who stood transfixed...until you put a dollar in his/her bucket.

Angel with Harry & Michael..Angel

On South Main Street, near RISD, the street was blocked off, and artists had drawn on the roadway with chalk.

North Main Street..Chalk artist..Chalk chariot

We walked by the First Baptist Church in America, where Roger Williams preached, and admired the newly illuminated steeple.

First Baptist Church

We got a riverside table outdoors at Café Nuovo, our favorite restaurant, and enjoyed a wonderful dinner, as the gondolas pushed by among the braziers of fire. Particularly noteworthy was a rigatoni saltimbocca (Italian for "jumps in your mouth"), that was stacked up like a truncated cone. The combination of rigatoni, mozzarella, ground veal, prosciutto, onions, celery, with a red wine reduction made it one of the best dishes I've ever tasted.

Rigatoni saltimbocca

For dessert, a banana puree encased in chocolate, with caramel ice cream and Venezuelan chocolate looked like a memoir of the 1939 World's Fair, and tasted delicious.

Banana dessert

Sunday morning, we brought up Barney's bagels from the lobby (they put them out every Sunday morning here), and read the papers. I drove Harry to the airport, and Carol went to Sukkot services to say Kaddish for Uncle Jack, whose yahrzeit is today. In the afternoon, we went back to the Miriam to visit Alan Brier, and the Lubavitscher Rebbetsen brought him a lulav and etrog, a welcome gift for a man who has just had prostate surgery.

Alan Brier with lulav

Sunday night, we went to Trinity to see Thronton Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth. Once more, Trinity presents a masterpiece that is warm, moving, loving, and troubling. Like all great works of art, it is as relevant today as it was 60 years ago, perhaps even more so. Amanda Dehnert has become one of the great directors in the history of Trinity. The ensemble is magnificent. This is theatre as good as it gets.

A lovely weekend.