Monday, September 17, 2018

2018 TRAVELS PART 2

In May, we flew to Honolulu. I hadn't been to Oahu in fifty one years. I used to fly to the big island of Hawaii with my TWA flight attendant wife Nancy somewhat regularly. We flew into Kona and had a 27 hour layover at the Kona Reef  Hotel. But I digress.


Waikiki has changed a lot in fifty years but Honolulu is pretty much the same. The biggest change in Waikiki is the ABC stores. The ABC stores started out as liqueur stores but now calling an ABC store a liqueur store is like calling Trader Joe's a liqueur store. Both started out as liqueur stores and both are much, much more now. To quote Wikipedia "There are 35 store locations within a one-mile radius of Waikiki alone and consequently many of these sit in close proximity to one another. The intersection of Kalakaua and Seaside Avenue alone has four ABC Stores. There was an ABC in the same building where our time share was. We dropped a ton of money right there.
We did all of the tourista stuff and took a food tour and a island tour. We spent the better part of one day at the Ala Moana Shopping center looking at a lot of Hawaiian tchotchkes. I have passed the Battleship Arizona dozens of times while entering or leaving Pearl Harbor but never have been to the memorial. After paying $15 per head as we were boarding the boat that takes the tourists out to Arizona, the nice folks informed us that we couldn't actually board the memorial due to some bullshit reason the memorial was closed. So we putted around for 15 minutes and went back to the dock. Thanks a lot, been there, done that. 
We took a sunset dinner cruise off of Waikiki on a big boat which was fun. We also went to a luau and walked up an down Kalakaua Blvd. a few times.  All things considered, a good time was had by all.

In late June, we flew to Charlotte NC and rented a car at the airport. We drove to Charleston SC and stayed a week at The Meeting Inn. Charleston was an unexpected surprise. What a beautiful city. So rich in history. The Low Country cuisine is remarkable. Classic Southern food with a lot of seafood. We went on a horse drawn buggy through town and later walked through a beautiful old section of town. We took the schooner Pride for a day sail. I was very proud of myself. I sat back and enjoyed the sail without leaping to my feet and shouting out orders. We went out to Fort Sumter where The Civil War started. As a history fan I was in heaven.



We left Charleston and drove to Beaufort SC where The Great Santini took place. I read the book, which I loved and saw the movie, which I also loved but nothing looked familiar. Oh well. Drove on to Hilton Head where old friends Scott and Deb Douglas  Have a house. Due to health reasons, Scott did most of the cooking which consisted of BBQ treats. No complaints there. He is on a par with Debra and they both are almost as good as Irene, Debra's mother. Unfortunately, Irene passed a few years ago. One day, we drove over to Bluffton and ate at the Cottage Restaurant where I had Blue Crab, corn and bacon pot pie. Like Arney, I'll be back. We bought crabs at the local seafood market. We spent a day in Savannah which after The Garden of Good and Evil I was chomppin' at the bit to see. It wasn't exactly like what I remembered in the movie but it didn't disappoint. 

 


2018 TRAVELS

So far this year we have been to London, Italy, Oahu and The Low Country, IE the sea shore of So. Carolina and Georgia.
I just did a quick count of the countries where I've been. North And South America, Asia, Europe and Australia. By most people's standards that's a lot of destinations, but one of the few places that I haven't been and wanted to see was The British Isles. 
So off we went in March we boarded Wow Air an Icelandic budget airline and headed off to Gatwick airport in London.  After a quick change of airplanes in Reykjavik we continued on to London.


England in general and London in particular was a bit of a surprise. I wasn't expecting the go-go sixties but I thought that it would be somewhat behind the USA in terms of modernization. Not so, London is almost like the US except they do have this annoying habit of driving down the wrong side of the street. It took me at least a week to learn to look both ways before stepping off of the curb to cross the street. There is so much to see in The UK the two weeks we were there was not nearly enough. We went to Stonehenge of course and Greenwich of course where we boarded Cuttysark and Portsmouth the home of The Royal Navy where we boarded Victory, Lord nelson's ship. The was basically my A list. We stayed at The Millennium Hotel in Kensington which was very centrally located and took the underground, subway, to get around using our Oyster cards. We walked to the Victoria and Albert Musium and to The Royal Albert Hall. We took coach tours to Dover, Stratford Upon Avon, Cambridge, Bath, Leeds and Highclere Castle where Downton Abby was filmed. We found the hop on-hop off bus tour a very good way to see what you wanted to see and avoid the crap. We went to Harrod's and Selfridge's Department stores. The Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, St. Paul's and Westminster Abby were all on our itinerary. Big Ben was a disappointment. After 157 years of continuous service, the tower is clad in construction scaffolding. You could barely identify it. 


I'd heard that English food is very bland, and it is, but because of the cosmopolitan atmosphere in the city almost any ethnic foo was very close by. We found the halal places had some of the best food to be found. We went to pubs and had fish and chips and on Sunday we ate Sunday roast which is traditionally roast beef with Yorkshire pudding and creamed spinach. The UK is a beer drinkers paradise. The beer in Germany and Belgium and Holland is better but in London there is an amazing variety of brews to sample. When a bartender heard my accent, they offered me an American brew. "Mate, we have Budweiser on drought". Thank you but no thank you.
We will have to return to the UK soon as we only hit the highlights and now need to explore further.











Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Italy Part Due

After spending almost a week in Rome, Capri, the Amalfi Coast and Sorrento, we headed for Tuscany. We had two weeks booked at a time share in Lorro Cuiffenna. It was wonderful, straight out of a dream. 
We arrived on a Monday morning while the weekly street market was taking place. It had a vast array of produce and a meat vendor there who was selling porchetta sandwiches which are rolled up roasted sides of pork with a crackling skin and a few bits of liver inside of the roll. I was hooked right there and then. We explored the town, or should I say village, the rest of the day. 
The next day we visited some Tuscan Chianti wineries. We ended up buying twelve bottles of  Chianti plus a few whites and one rose wine. All of the wineries in addition to sampling their wares fed us Italian pu-pus. Half way through the day, we also had lunch in some little walled town. We spent another day sitting around the pool recovering from the previous day's excesses. 
The next day we spent exploring the Tuscan countryside with Sam and Ruth a couple from Redondo Beach who had rented a Jeep SUV. We spent another day attending an Italian cooking school learning the proper way to make home-made pasta and made tagliatelle and raviolis.  
On Saturday, being Sam and Ruth moved on to Greece, we took a cab to Montevarchi, then a train to Arezzo to rent a car. A cute little Fiat 500. We went to Pisa to see, what else, the Tower and back to Sienna. After Sienna, Jamie had to go to the Prada outlet in Montevarchi. Needless to say she was on cloud nine for a few days afterward.
It's Sunday, it must be walled cities day. We went to Montalcino, Pienza, Montepulciano where parts of Under the Tuscan Sun was filmed and finally Monteriggioni which was the best of the lot. If you think you're seeing Monte as part of the town's names it's because the walled towns are built on hilltops or montes. Damned fine views and good protection from who ever is about to invade you. By the time they get to the top of the hill in full battle gear, thy were too exhausted to put up much of a fight.
The next day we drove to Cortona and spent most of the day just enjoying Italy. We then took a train to Venice for the day and had a wonderful time and then a train back to Lorro Cuiffenna. Another train ride to Florence to catch the tour of the Cinque Terre.
Cinque Terre is on the Italian Riviera and is so beautiful it is a UNESCO Heritage site. It consists of five charming little towns that sit on the sides of hills overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. They are inaccessible by car and you can only get there by train. 
Back to Lorro Cuiffenna for the evening and then back to Florence by train for sightseeing and especially to see Michelangelo's David which is how my son got is name. There are no superlatives  that I know that describes that hunk of marble. 
Finally, we drove to the Rome airport and turned in the little red Fiat and got a hotel room next door to the Vatican and went sightseeing on our last day.
We flew to Amsterdam on KLM which was a very pleasant experience and got a hotel room on a canal. We had to be back to Schiphol,  Amsterdam's airport for our fourteen hour flight to LAX.  
I think I'll get out of retirement and go back to work, I need the rest.


Sunday, August 12, 2018

ITALY

The last time I was in Italy was about 1974. My how things have changed. With me not with the country. I'm not the hell on wheels guy as I was in my yout. Rome is after all The Eternal City and as Rome goes so goes the rest of the country.
Everywhere you turn, you see history and beauty. Roman aqueducts run through the city and everywhere are two thousand year old structures. The food is to die for and the women are beautiful. Italian women are According to the Godfather "In Italy, the women are more dangerous then shotguns".
But who wants to live a boring life anyway? I don't. 
I am here in Rome right now with my own topolina awaiting our train to Florence. We are staying in Tuscany for two weeks at a small cottage. We plan on taking a few Italian cooking classes together, taking a 13 hour train excursion through Cinque Terre, also one day train trips to Pisa and Venice. With a little luck I am also going to enjoy some down time in the pool and letto. We are a "five minute walk" to the town and I am already an olympic class walker, which is a good thing. 
We have already taken a bus trip to Pompeii and then on to Sorrento. We spent two nights at the Imperial Hotel Tramontano. From the hotel, we took a boat to Capri to see the famous Blue Grotto. The damned famous grotto was so famous the crowd was like a swarm of locusts. We never got into the grotto. Note to self, never go to anything touristy in Italy in tourist season. 
The second day in Sorrento we took a car trip to the Amalfi Coast. It was one of the most beautiful places I've ever been to. We are seriously considering moving there, but I am holding out until I see Tuscany and Cinque Terre in particular before making firm plans.    


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Pre 1950s Life in Cleveland


Pre 1950s Life in Cleveland

There aren't too many people who remember the paper and rag man. He would sit on the bench of his wagon, yelling "Paper rags " usually in the poor neighborhoods. It sounded like paypa dape to me. I was only five or six back then.
People would come out with bundled paper, rags, pots and pans, bottles and anything else he might buy. He would pay a few pennies for these remnants, then probably took them to some junkyard where he made a few pennies profit.
He was a small, elderly, wrinkled old man and the strength and range of his voice was surprising as he yelled out, "Paper rags." His wagon was pulled by a wrinkled old horse as it slowly and with difficulty made its way down our street.
We boys in the neighborhood had never seen a live horse. Our only acquaintance with horses was seeing our favorite cowboy heroes in the movies. Although hard to believe, this was before TV.
The paper and rag man was a kindly soul and he allowed us to pet the horse when he stopped to pick some paper or rags. I'm a little ashamed to remember that we often followed the wagon, taunting him by mimicking his voice and shouting "Paper rags." But he didn't mind. I think he liked the children and the attention he and the horse were getting from us. Whenever our parents could spare it, we were allowed to take a carrot or apple to the seemingly always hungry horse and it nuzzled us in gratitude.

Back then, we also had a guy who walked the streets with a small cart not unlike a golf bag cart who sharpened knives. Another guy fixed things, mainly umbrellas.

We, like everyone else, had a milk man. Our milk man would put his deliveries in our milk chute which was on the side of our house on the drive way. The other milk man actually had a horse and wagon. This was in the nineteen forties.
We also had an ice man who brought our ice right into the house and placed the block in the icebox.

There was an ice cream truck or motor scooter with a big box in front that sold ice cream bars and sandwiches. They used jingle bells like on Santa's sleigh to announce their presence. 

There was a waffle truck much like the ice cream truck. They made the waffles fresh to order and dusted them with powdered sugar.

Some houses had phones with no dials. You picked up the phone and didn't get a dial tone. An operator would come on the line and you would tell her what number that you wanted to call.

Of course, back then, there were no television sets. The first one that I saw had about a 5 inch screen and mostly showed a test pattern. The big entertainment device was the radio. We had a Zenith console that had a record player on the right side which only played 78 RPM records. Back then 45 PM records hadn't been available and 33 1/3s were science fiction.

Going downtown to shop meant going to Higbee's May's. In Ohio, it wasn't May Company or Higbee Company it was May's or Hugbee's. The frosted malteds in the basements were a special treats as there were no McDonalds or Wendie's back then. Going downtown meant taking a streetcar and later a bus.




END OF AN ERA

I am a US Navy veteran and accordingly act like the sailor that I am.
This has included, in no particular order, chasing women, drinking a lot of rum, drinking even more beer and eating almost anything I happened across. 
Well I had a big eye-opener two weeks ago. I had my third stroke. It was a miner stroke if there is such a thing. A TSA or Transient Ischemic Attack. 
The docs at the VA Hospital grilled me with a bunch of questions concerning my life style. Do you smoke? Me, I smoke about ten cigars a year. Do you drink? Me, not like I used to. Why did you cut back? Me, I got old. How much do you drink? Me, I have a mixed drink, a beer, or a glass of wine with dinner about five times a week. Do you have a healthy diet? Me, it depends who you ask. I feel that I do. I have mostly chicken breast, fish and lean pork regularly. I don't get junk food like double cheese burgers hardly ever and I eat red meat, IE beef less than once a week. 
That's good what about vegetables? Me, I could do better in that department. What does that mean? Is more than half of your plate veggies? Me, no. A quarter? Me, sometimes. You need to do better. Do want to die tomorrow? Me, of course not.
My take on this is as follows.
The cigars are not good but not all that bad. Same for the alcohol. Part of the diet is OK but the veggie and fiber part needs improving.
Sunday we went to the Fish Camp. I had grilled sand dabs and instead of ordering fries and mac & cheese as my two sides, I had rice and grilled veggies. This is a quantum leap for this old sailor but entirely necessary. Last evening I bought a no-salt rotisserie chicken. I really couldn't really perceive any difference. 
My next big step is to have several meatless days each week.
It isn't the end of the world but you can see it from here.




Tuesday, December 26, 2017

END OF YEAR 2017 LETTER

It is Boxing Day and we are still on the lam in Palm Springs. Palm Springs to this old Cleveland boy is like SoCal on steroids. It is this worthless expanse of sand and scrub trees that some swindler seventy five, or so, years ago sold some poor hapless soul that this is just the place to grow golf courses. The land was cheap and there was an inexhaustible supply of it. We came out here last year to have a family Christmas at my second wife's home on, guess what, a golf course. The concept was great but the reality was straight out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie. 
This year we have decided to utilise the hard learned lesson of staying at an ex wife's home and securing lodgings at a timeshare. This is more like it. We are in our own little world for a few days. We have several bedrooms in the event some friend(s) need a place to crash. There is a gas grill on a patio and several pools complete with Jacuzzis within walking distance. There is a Von's a block away as well as several movie theaters. There are two HD TVs in the place with DVD players so things are really self-contained. 
We had a brunch at the club house at the golf club and the watched the frenzy of grandchildren opening brightly wrapped Christmas presents. A little nap was in order after the orgy and then it was off to a very nice restaurant at the hotel that the kids were staying at. A little wine, OK a lot of wine, and a little prime rib, OK a lot of prime rib and the day was a complete success.
OK, I seem to have skipped the January through November part. In reality, 2017 was a fairly undramatic year compared to previous years. We didn't take any cruises through the Panama Canal or motoring trips across the country. 
Much of our time was devoted to the SLBYC, IE Seal Beach Yacht Club. Jamie was asked to become the club's treasurer. It was billed as a "two to four hour a week undertaking". That was a load of horse manure, She is at that stinking club all day, every day. I was nominated to the club's board of directors and when asked what the first thing I would do is, I replied "fire Jamie. I didn't get elected and feel that I have dodged a very large bullet.
I on the other hand have been named Food Manager for the club. I will, among other things, be selecting the menu for friday night dinners at the club. I also will either cook or help cook sometimes.
We have made many new friends at the club. We sailed to Cat Harbor on a Catalina 42.
 Somehow some people said that I could drive and navigate a boat off shore. So we ended up going to Avalon on a beautiful 48 foot Californian and a few weeks later went on it to Marina Del Rey. We also went to Two Harbors, IE The Isthmus, on a 42 Hunter so life hasn't been too bad.
In March, we motored up to The Cliff House at Mussel Shoals. I ended coming down with the Flu so I don't remember too much as I was delirious with a fever. We continued on up to The Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo and stayed the first night in the flintstone room which is literally made out of real stone boulders. I didn't sleep all night. In my feverish condition all I could think of was if we had an earthquake I would end up squashed like a piece of roadkill. The next day Jamie moved us to a much safer room. Staying at the Madonna had been one of my bucket list items but I don't remember much. Three weeks when I was better, we drove up to Cambria and spent two nights there. While in the Paso Robles/Templeton AVA we visited a lot of wineries and bought A LOT of wine. Clever marketers these wineries, get the visitor shitfaced and they will buy a lot.