Ultimate cool place to stay: an art gallery

It’s not quite a night at the museum, but it may be the closest thing: spending the night in an art gallery.

You don’t need to be a celebrity or performance artist. There are a couple venues out there (and many more that I may not know about) for us ordinary folk.

gallery exterior

gallery walken

Was in St. Petersburg, Florida, this past week and decided to give this photography studio a shot. I was told I was only the second person to try it out and lodging was still in the “experimental” stage.

gallery konica and me

One look at the official greeter, a rescue dog named — what else — Konica — and I was in. I would have gladly cuddled with her in her beanbag chair the entire stay.

gallery deflated mattress

Waiting with big smile and air mattress at the ready was the photog-in-residence, Clinton Lee.

I started to get deflated when I saw said air mattress without any air. I’ve only camped once in my life, in the Australian outback, and I expected that to be rough. Besides, that outdoors was free. This experience was costing me 65 bucks a night.


gallery bed and living space

It turned out to be one of the most-comfy mattresses ever. No kidding.

gallery rest of living space

And here’s the rest of the living space. Not your typical hotel room, for sure.

Clinton is an area native. He does a lot of weddings, but here’s the neat part — they’re all over the world. I never thought wedding pictures were high art, but he has a way of making them so — and I’m not just saying that because he’s a really nice guy.

That pays the bills and gives him tons of contacts. The rest of the photos are random shots from here and there: his true passion.

gallery trashed house

gallery times square

gallery nude other

There was also a big workspace. And a little fridge, stocked with juices. A thoughtful touch was a bottle of water on my pillow every night. A must after a day in the sauna that is St. Pete in summer.

Nighty night. Curtains drawn across entrance for privacy.

Nighty night. Curtains drawn across entrance for privacy.

 All the eye candy made up for one big shortfall: a place to bathe.

gallery bathroom

There was a half bath in the back. But no shower. I had to coordinate with Clinton to use the shower in the apartment he shares with his roommate. Fortunately, it was just above the studio. (There are also pay washing machines in the building.)

It was a tad inconvenient, but the shower was clean, with plenty of hot water.

Clinton realizes that’s a big drawback, and is thinking about getting a portable shower for the gallery. Until he does, that’s the setup.

Being that I was camping out at a business establishment, I couldn’t lounge around in my jammies for too long, like I could in a strictly private room. Texting helped keep me and my host on schedule.

gallery computer workspace

But I had the workspace to myself all day long. Breaks were a blast.

gallery tricycle

gallery me and konica hugging

I spent three great nights there. A much longer stay might have been trying, given some of the limitations. It was one of the more memorable places I’ve ever stayed. Your tolerance may vary.

Here’s a few others. And according to this article, a Parisian bookstore has apparently allowed sleepovers in the past, but check to make sure. And if you know of any more places, let me know.


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Who I’m sleeping with tonight

gallery dog sprinklesMeet Konica, proprietress of an art gallery in St. Petersburg, Florida. It’s my digs for the next couple days while I continue The Great Condo Search. One of the neatest lodging experiences I’ve ever had.

Back with the scoop (as opposed to the pooper scooper) a little later.


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Planet Lippstone winds up in another galaxy

OK, I’m a slacker, but I have a couple reasons. They may not be good ones, but …

For the last few weeks, Planet Lippstone’s been sidelined by some technical and personal difficulties. Lost a bit of content, and have learned the hard lesson about backing up.

Plus The Great Condo Search  hijacked me once again. What can I say? Any homebuyer knows it’s tough trying to find the perfect little place in an imperfect world.

But that search has taken me to more interesting places, which I can’t wait to write about.

Back soon.



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Eats: You call that Jewish deli? Oy vey.

Heaven, also know as Ben's Deli, Boca Raton, FL.

Heaven, also know as Ben’s Deli, Boca Raton, FL.

As much as us traditional Jewish deli (i.e., old) fans want things to stay the same, time marches on.

We once thought any deviations from plain or marble bagels or potato or kasha knishes were an abomination. Still are, in my book.

Now I see a spinoff of one of my favorite places, Russ & Daughters on NY’s Lower East Side, is offering halvah ice cream with salted caramel.

I only take my halvah whole, and chocolate-covered. A Planet Lippstone tradition that goes back to Daddy Lippstone. But guess I shouldn’t knock it until I’ve tried it.

So here are some cool-sounding places to try the latest in Jewish deli, if you can stomach it. And as the famous saying goes, You don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy.

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Let’s Paws 2: Clearly not cut out to be a service dog

Like every doggie mom, I confess: I look at noble and selfless service dogs like Liz and sometimes wonder: Why can’t my pet be like that? Even a little?

Ginger bed

It’s clearly not in our dachshund Ginger’s genes. Oh, she’s a service dog, all right. She’s the one being waited on.

Regular dog food? Maybe one bite, and then the snout turns up and she saunters away. Feh. Believe me, we’ve tried everything short of chewing it for her.

And I’d like to say it’s because she’s so old and finicky. But truth is, she’s always been this way.

I’ve written about her a lot. The short version: Found out I-95 in North Carolina as a pup. Doesn’t play well with other dogs, to say the least. Doesn’t like everyone. We don’t know if she was abandoned or bolted, but either one is feasible, given her temperament.

Now that she’s almost 17 and has advancing kidney disease (I thought she was older, but was wrong), she’s mellowed a lot — but still is the neighborhood loudmouth. Which, as one of our awfully nice neighbors recently said, is good. All that barking shows she’s still kickin’.

We do what we can. Because of her kidneys, she has to go out constantly. (Mitch has the night shift; lucky guy.)

Hand-feed her sliced turkey. Give her fortune cookies, her fave snack.

Ginger fortune cookies

The good folks at our local Chinese restaurant are now used to me coming in and asking for a ton at a time. I’ve explained to them that theirs are better — the ones you buy in the supermarket are too hard for her to chew. (Her stuffed toys have more teeth at this point.)

Ginger IV

And because she runs the risk of dehydration from her kidney disease, we give her fluids under the skin twice a week. Actually, Mitch does it because I’m too squeamish, so I’m there to hold her in place.

She also gets Pepcid twice a day for her constantly gurgling stomach. And meds for high blood pressure.


We’re happy to wait on our lady of leisure. What we get in return are kisses, snuggles and (what appear to be) looks of contentment. Like she can’t believe her good fortune with us, her fourth family.

And that’s enough for us.


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Let’s Paws: A dog’s devotion on Memorial Day, and every day

A young man with his whole life ahead of him. Then, Iraq.

He’s left with a broken mind and body, as well as a broken marriage. His law degree is of no use because he can’t use that part of his head.

At 33, he has to move back in with his parents, who help him pull through — and also help him with his daily round of 21 pills he says he needs to survive.

Feeling useless and depressed, he meets Liz, who only has eyes for him, and makes him feel like a whole person again.

Read on.


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Bacteria on a plane. This is no movie.

Airplanes are full of germs. Now there’s a surprise. Pack scads of humans into a bus with wings, and what would you expect?

We already know airplane bathrooms are the worst. Do you wipe down the sink and counter as a “courtesy to the next passenger”, as the friendly signs often suggest? I don’t.

And by the end of a long flight, with overflowing trash receptacles and slimy sink, I can’t wait to get in and get out. I’m not about to start cleaning; let’s face it, it wouldn’t matter anyway.

But this story goes into a lot more specific detail about what could be lurking around your seat. A little MRSA with your inflight magazine? How about a dash of E. coli with the pretzels and that Coca-Cola Classic?

We also know how thorough the “cleaning” is between flights. When there are delays, as is often the case, who’s got time to really do anything?

Not the best way to go through life.

Not the best way to go through life.

I’ve been traveling longer than some airlines have been in business, and I’m happy to say I’ve never gotten sick from a flight.

I do realize the scary thing about germs now is that they’ve evolved to super-nasty status, and MRSA is fairly common and nothing to laugh about.

The risk on a plane, in my mind? About the same as everywhere else. Don’t lick the tray table or the armrest. Hose yourself down with body wash, if it’ll make you feel better. Keep your hands away from your face.

You could always wear gloves all the time. And not leave the house.

Seriously, as with everything else in life, use some common sense, try not to worry, and enjoy yourself.


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My only bad experience with lodging giant Airbnb

Ever since I was a minnow growing up at the Jersey Shore in Springsteen’s old stomping grounds, I fantasized about living on a boat.

When I worked in TV news in L.A. and lived in a box of a studio apartment next to a marina, I adored my living quarters, tiny as they were. But I envied the folks living on boats just across the way.  Looked a little draconian, but how divine to be living in waterworld 24/7.

The dream continued with stints aboard a floating house in a DC marina, a yacht across the street from the L.A. marina and a river houseboat in Paris.

The last two were courtesy of Airbnb, the company I use exclusively around the world.  You may have heard of them. They’ve been in scrapes with cities like San Francisco and NYC because of their business model.

Airbnb members can choose to rent out everything from a treehouse to a boat to a camper to a private room to an entire house. At often a fraction of the cost of a hotel. I love the idea. It’s a chance to stay in real homes in real neighborhoods with real people.

It saves money, and in the case of renters, can be a lifesaver for them, too. I’ve had hosts tell me if it weren’t for Airbnb income, they’d be out on the street. A win-win, as far as I’m concerned.

But in some places, it’s more than frowned upon. For instance, folks who are merely renting themselves aren’t supposed to be renting out their space without their landlords’ permission.

It’s also a no-no in co-ops and many condo communities where “strangers” are not allowed.

But everywhere else apparently is fine. Things work on a review system, and renters and guests alike really strive for good reviews. Reputation is everything on Airbnb, and participants place a lot of stock on those reviews.

I’d had nothing but good luck. Until recently.

I was looking for something on Airbnb at the last minute, since I decided to go back to St. Petersburg, Florida, to check out something in the latest installment of my search for a condo to call my own – CondoQuest — I call it.

Hours before my flight, I found a yacht for rent. At $60 a night. It had one good review (believe me, that’s better than nothing) and the price was right. I only needed something for two nights. It looked OK, at least from the pictures.

I emailed the owner, and he seemed very agreeable and eager to accommodate me at the last minute.

Had no problem with me arriving late at night. Said the boat’s Internet worked great, which was important because I need reliable Internet for my journalism job, which I planned on doing per usual while I was there.

(I’m fortunate enough to have a job that I can do anywhere in the world — and have — as long as there’s working Internet.)

Since my trip was going to be short (I was only going to check out one property) I didn’t rent a car this time.

The taxi driver dropped me off and gave me his card in case I needed his services again.

The boat was deserted. The owner had emailed me later that night that he wouldn’t be there, and hid the key somewhere in the stern. (I confess all the times I’ve been sailing, I only had a vague idea what the stern was.)

It was a little disconcerting getting onto the boat with suitcase in the dark, but this klutzy landlubber managed.

There was a fan running, but the air seemed to be barely moving.

No matter. Top priority was a working Internet. I called the boat owner for instructions because I couldn’t waste time. It was almost 11 pm, and work was only hours away.

In the course of the conversation, I noticed the fan wasn’t making a dent in the air. (I later noticed that the listing said the place was air-conditioned, but that ship had apparently sailed, so to speak.)

It’s a bit hot in here, I said. Open up the hatches, he said. Still no Internet; the password wasn’t working. He’d get back to me.

Again, severely challenged in all things nautical, I wasn’t sure where the hatches were, let alone how to open them. I was thrilled that I managed to hoist them open. A screen fell off one in the process. I wasn’t going to hunt for it in the dark.

I was hoping things would cool down. Nope. Air was still soup. Meanwhile, what looked like a cockroach the size of a cat was strutting its stuff on a counter in the bedroom. It ran away before I could clobber it. Ewww. I closed the bedroom door, never to return.


Trying to keep my cool, I started texting the owner furiously.

There’s a bug here, I texted. Message back: There are no bugs there. It must have flown in. Put the hatch screens in.

(Even if I could have done that properly, I noticed part of the roof was already open to the elements and there was no way to cover it up.)

Then a smell like ammonia. Part of being on a boat, I guessed. I traced it far as the bathroom. Big mistake opening the door.


Inside: Looked nice, but reeking of the smell of a thousand cats letting loose in a litter box. Wouldn’t be using that room either.

No Internet; buggy boat; bathroom from hell. I called the taxi driver. He said to call back in 20 minutes.

That gave me some time to reason with my panicked self. I had nowhere to go and it was close to midnight.

I called the owner. Told him I didn’t want to to leave, but I’d have to because I needed working Internet, for starters. He was very nice, said being on the boat was a bit like camping. (What?)

He was sorry, he wasn’t even in town, and he would refund the money I’d shelled out for two nights. In the course of the conversation, we got the Internet working.

That made me relent a bit. Rather than trying to score another place, I resolved to make do, since I was on a tight budget and it was so late. Like camping, I reminded myself.

What is that smell? I asked politely. I have allergies (borderline asthma), and they’re acting up. (I take allergy medicine but didn’t think to bring an inhaler because didn’t think I’d need it.)

He said something about a problem with some kind of pump and said yeah, this boat’s not the best place if you’ve got allergies. He also advised me not to use the bathroom and use the common bathrooms and showers at the marina dock. Not the best at this late date, but …

couch better

Like camping. I fell asleep on the couch (which I’d covered with a towel — blech), the fan almost on top of me.

boat daybreak

Next morning, things looked a little nicer in the daylight. At first.

Until I felt the smarting welts of a couple mosquitoes who’d laid claim to me. I fended off another trying to dive-bomb. Squish. Blood. Eek.

Dead mozzie, as they'd say in Australia.

Dead mozzie, as they’d say in Australia.

Like camping.

I texted the owner; still trying to be cooperative. Told him about the mosquitoes. Asked if he had any insect repellent. (Wish I’d thought to pack leftovers from a round-the-world trip to some heavy-duty tropics that weren’t nearly this bad.)

There are no mosquitoes in the marina, he said. No word about the insect repellent. Told him I had proof there were.


The kitchen sink was another delight. Something else to avoid.

fridge yoo hoo

As was the fridge, which leaked when I opened it. Got no response when I told the owner about that.

At the same time, I was noticeably more congested from the stench.

Like camping.

boat office

I had written to Airbnb in a panic the night before, after their emergency number for real emergencies, like if you’re in immediate danger, was tied up. They got back to me and apologized profusely.

I told them that I’d told the owner I would stick out the next night, figuring I’d be away all day, and I could just sleep there again. But they said I didn’t have to put myself through that and they would refund my money if I wanted to find another place.

I finished up my work and cleared out in a flash.


Shame, because the marina actually looked very nice. Double shame because another boat owner there told me there was no excuse for the deplorable conditions on the boat. Even if I wasn’t paying top dollar.

I did find something else, on dry land.

bathroom nicerWith the coupon Airbnb graciously gave me, the second place cost $10. And it was so civilized. As Airbnb lodging usually is.

I take it Airbnb gave the boat owner a dressing down, because I noticed in his listing he now recommends bypassing his digs if you’ve got allergies. And still tells prospective guests it’s like camping …

Believe me, while Airbnb is reasonably priced, it’s never supposed to be like camping.

Why he won’t just get rid of the smell is something I don’t know. And I don’t care.


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Sometimes, best view is right in your yard

rainbowMushy, but true — as real mushy moments — the kind you don’t experience all that often — usually are.

Somewhere over the rainbow in Pennsylvania. 4.22.14.

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Let’s Paws: Doggone great encounters

What’s travel without meeting new faces — preferably of the canine kind?

Some dogs I’ve had the recent pleasure of meeting:

raleigh dogs

Starbucks drive-thru, Raleigh, NC.

seattle downtown dachshundDowntown Seattle.

seattle starbucks dogPike Place Market, Seattle.

Seattle -- Henry dogDitto.

seattle-ballard dogsBallard neighborhood, Seattle.

seattle alki dogAlki Beach Park, Seattle.

Seattle Gas Works dogGas Works Park, Seattle

St. Pete me and lucky dogsThe lucky dogs of St. Petersburg, Florida — another very dog-friendly city.

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