The SS Rotterdam was for nearly 40 years the flagship of the Holland-America Line. Here she is in Juneau Harbor on a Sunday evening sometime in the 1980's, seen from my apartment, with her bows pointed at the waterfront offices of the maritime agency in which I was employed at the time. Although I worked seven days a week in the summers, Sundays could be slightly less hectic and usually allowed time for a buffet brunch if after meetings with the captain, chief engineer, purser and medical officer I found myself with no urgent business. And Sundays were always the Rotterdam's day in port.

SS Rotterdam V in Juneau

SS Rotterdam V in Juneau

She was a beautiful ship, of an older generation, with mahogany panelling, leather upholsteries and brass fittings. She was, however, beginning to show her age and perhaps beginning to seem a little dark and musty compared with the glitzier floating casinos cruise ships which were coming to dominate the cruise industry. She was finally retired in 1997 (replaced by the SS Rotterdam VI of that year) and sold to Premier Lines for whom she was re-christened the SS Rembrandt. When Premier Lines went into bankruptcy in 2000, the ex-Rotterdam was laid up in Freeport in the Bahamas for nearly four years, her future very much in doubt-- probably either to be scrapped or sold to one of the Greek companies that seem to specialize in decaying hulks.

But her story looks like it will end well. She has been taken in hand by a consortium of friends and towed to Gibraltar where for the last year her interior has been totally restored. This last week she removed to Cadiz for exterior work, including restoration of her original livery in grey with gold piping. Re-christened the SS Rotterdam, she should by next spring be berthed in the Port of Rotterdam where she will serve as a hotel and learning center.

Pictures, History, News

November 28, 2005 | Comments (0)

Streets, Roads

A road heads out of town while a street stays there, so you find roads in the country but not streets.

The best streets urge you to stay; the road is an endless incentive to leave.

Geoff Dyer, The Ongoing Moment (Pantheon, 2005).

November 19, 2005 | Comments (3)

Gramineæ iii


Miscanthus sinensis
one of the Seven Flowers of Autumn

November 14, 2005 in Natural History | Comments (0)


It is the act of a screaming and demented oyster.

A sentence of such adamantine singularity that we forgot what the argument was about. In: Paul Shepard, Man in the Landscape: A historic view of the esthetics of nature (Texas A&M University Press, 1967, 1991).

November 14, 2005 in Natural History | Comments (0)

Pons formosissimus

In the history section: the big Penguin with a photograph on the cover of the Stari Most, the "Old Bridge" over the Neretva River at Mostar (which takes its name from the bridge). An intriguing title, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon. I've owned a copy some years now and still I feel the urge in the bookstore to pick it up and look at this big mysterious book. I think it is the photograph of the bridge, one of the "most beautiful in the world," that does it. Point your search engine to "Stari Most" and you will find lots of photographs of the bridge as it was before November 1993 as well as photos of the reconstructed bridge, opened just last year. Alas, it will be decades or centuries before the new bridge can compare with the old.

Stari Most

Stari Most
Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina

I 've recently replaced my Penguin with a 1948 Viking, the first post-war, post-"Reduced Wartime Format" edition. It is a handsome thing, in dark navy boards with inset artwork by an artist whose name I've not been able to discover. There is a book, Stari most u Mostaru: The Old Bridge at Mostar, a collection of artistic and literary works (more than 450) in which the Old Bridge appears. I wonder if the Black Lamb and Grey Falcon artist appears therein? A website associated with the book offers a selection of its Texts and Images, well worth a look.

More at Wikipedia's Stari Most.

November 13, 2005 | Comments (0)



Kowloon, Hong Kong (1983)

November 9, 2005 | Comments (0)

parva sed apta mihi

Westwinds Bookshop, Duxbury, Massachusetts (17mm x 25mm)

I recently obtained a copy of a seminal production in the field of Book Trade Label collecting: Larry Dingman's Booksellers Marks: An Illustrated Book (1986). Not easy to come by, it was printed in an edition of only 447 (377 numbered) copies, of which mine is #196.

Prefaced by a pair of essays on appreciating and collecting the marks, the book was formatted like an old-fashioned stamp-collector's album, with B&W images of some 444 common and not-so-common booksellers' marks, over which you were to paste your acquisitions. Each copy came seeded with 4 or 5 marks pasted in; the former owner(s) of mine added a couple of dozen more, mostly from the Northeast US with some outliers (e.g., Venezuela). Schenectady and Albany make a good showing...

November 1, 2005 | Comments (0)