fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
2015 was a complex year. I had underestimated the impact of grieving for my mother and of trying to deal with her stuff. Changing jobs also had an impact. It will be positive in the long run but is inherently stressful. All of this definitely affected my energy level. Despite that, I did accomplish a few things. I managed two travel related life list items (the Hurtigruten cruise up the coast of Norway and the trip to Iguacu Falls), one non-travel related life list item (tracing my genealogy back into the 18th century on at least a couple of branches of my family), and made some progress on other items, e.g. seeing two more Best Picture Oscar winners.

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fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I'd been planning to get down to Norfolk and Virginia Beach to do some volksmarch events. My friend, Lynn, was hosting a storytelling house concert in Norfolk the weekend before last, so that provided a perfect excuse.

The downtown Norfolk walk was a mixed bag. There was a long, dullish stretch going up to Doumar's, which is known for having the oldest ice-cream cone machine in Virginia. I can't question that claim, but I will say that their vanilla ice cream is pretty dreadful. (I often order vanilla at these sorts of places, because it is more of a quality test. Looking at yelp after the fact suggests that people seem to like the butter pecan.) The better parts of the walk involved historic houses (and churches) and, of course, the waterfront. The overall highlight was definitely the Armed Forces Memorial, which has reproductions of letters sent by soldiers from various wars (from the American Revolution through Vietnam) shortly before they were killed. It's both moving and tasteful.

As for the house concert, Lynn opened with an entertaining story about a ghost tour in Savannah gone wrong. Then Kim Weitkamp told two sets. The first was about aging and laps and relationships and all that good sort of everything and nothing but warm and cozy. The second set was the more seasonal one, with a really creepy piece about a man who unknowingly married a boo-hag, followed by the story of a cemetery keeper and his fate. All in all, it was an excellent concert and well worth the trip.
In the morning, I drove over the Virginia Beach and, despite somewhat gloomy weather, did the volksmarch there. The section along the boardwalk (really a concrete path) was excellent, especially as I do love walking along the ocean front. But it was a long ways to and from that section and, other than briefly passing the aquarium and watching the harbor seals swimming in their outdoor tank, that was just tedious.

I also got stuck in fairly horrendous traffic on the way back, just crawling along most of the way from Williamsburg to Richmond and then again from Spotsylvania to Occoquan. It took a good hour and a half longer driving home than it had driving down.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Lots of catching up to do, not all of it in this one entry. But let us get started.

Celebrity Death Watch: Hal Hackady was a lyricist. In addition to Snoopy!!! The Musical, he wrote the lyrics to "Let’s Go, Mets." Of course, that’s the theme song from 1986 on and is not nearly as good as "Meet the Mets," but such are the times we live in.

Joshua Wheeler was the first American soldier to be killed fighting ISIL.

Esther Geller was an artist, who I only know about because my father lived with the family of another woman of the same name in Detroit when he first came to the U.S. and the Bostonian artist came up when I googled for the Detroit one.

Ted Ingram was the world’s oldest paperboy, dying at age 95. I would have thought that attaining such an age made him a paperman. Along similar lines, Edythe Kirchmaier was, at 107, the oldest known facebook user. Apparently, she had brought a few new wrinkles to social media.

Finally, the puzzle world has suffered yet another huge loss with the death of Henry Hook. He was one of the constructors who played a large role in the transformation of crosswords from memorization of obscure words to word play and the clever themes that lead to aha moments.

Out of Mourning: Yahrzeit for my mother was the 15th, so I am officially no longer in mourning. That allowed for the theatre-going binge which is one of the main things I have to write about. It would also allow me to go clothes shopping if I could manage to find some time to do so.

Theatre Binge, Part 1 – Moon Over Buffalo: I have a friend who is from Buffalo, New York. Therefore, she wanted to see a show called Moon Over Buffalo which was being done by St. Mark’s Players, a community theatre group on Capitol Hill. I should have done a little more homework before agreeing to come along. The play was written by Ken Ludwig, whose work is generally not to my taste. In short, I dislike farce and particularly dislike farce with theatrical settings (in this case, a repertory group on tour in Buffalo). And I really really hate humor that depends on a character being drunk. On the plus side, it was well-acted and I will give a particular shout-out to Lauren Devoll as Roz.

Sonoma: Before the farcical evening, we had dinner at Sonoma, a wine bar on Pennsylvania Avenue. They have a good happy hour deal, which would have been an excellent option. Except it is only available in the lounge and that was closed for a private event. So we ordered off the regular menu. I got a funghi pizza which had too much cheese and was too salty. We split an order of crispy Brussels sprouts, which were excellent. That used to be a vegetable I wouldn’t eat, but then a couple of years ago, I was coerced into tasting some and they’re really quite nice as long as they aren’t overcooked. But, overall, based on the pizza, I’d say there are better options for dining on the Hill.

USA Freedom Walk Festival: This festival is an annual Volksmarch / International Marching League event, which offers walks of varying distances (from 6 kilometers to a marathon) for three days in Arlington, VA and Washington, DC. I did the 12K walk on Saturday. The route was an excellent one, through Georgetown, up to the National Cathedral, and winding back on natural surface trails through Glover Archbold Park. I usually think I know the city pretty well, but this took me through parts of it I rarely or never get to, as well as some familiar ones (e.g. Embassy Row). I wish I’d had time to do one of the Sunday walks, but I had too much stuff to do at home.

Theatre Binge, Part 2 - And the World Goes ‘Round: My second theatre binge outing was to see this Kander and Ebb revue at Creative Cauldron, at ArtsSpace in Falls Church. What a lovely little theatre! And it’s only about a 15 minute drive from home. I was expecting this to be amateurish community theatre, but it isn’t. It was directed by Matt Conner, who is well-known (at least locally) as a musical theatre composer and the five cast members have all appeared with various local professional theatres. There were many familiar songs, but also some less so. Notably, I had not heard "Pain," a song about what choreographers do to dancers, before. The staging was also excellent. Overall, this was a delight and I will definitely go to future shows here.

Theatre Binge, Part 3 - Mark Russell at Fords’ Theatre: Next up was seeing PBS comedian Mark Russell perform at Ford’s Theatre. He’s been doing his mix of jokes and music parodies, mostly about politics, for a long time. The current crop of candidates makes for lots of opportunities for this sort of shtick and my only real complaint was that his show was rather disconnected. His best joke of the night was that Steven Spielberg is making a movie about Hillary Clinton. It’s going to be called "Saving Private E-mail."

By the way, as I was entering the metro to go home, I ran into an old friend, who had also been at the show. It was nice to catch up a bit as we waited for our respective trains.

Co Co Sala: Because of its proximity to Ford’s Theatre, we had dinner at Co Co Sala. We should have made appoint of telling the waiter we had theatre tickets, as the pacing was unnecessarily slow. I started with a glass of prosecco. The beet salad was disappointing, as it needed something more acidic. The tuna tartare was better, with a spicy dipping sauce. I ordered the cupcakes for dessert, not realizing this would be three full-size cupcakes. So I ended up bringing two of them home. Overall, it wasn’t bad, but I have had better meals there.

A Brief Note on Washington: I was at a symposium part of last week. Who knew it would be so much more complicated to get into the Commerce Department Building than it is to get into a Senate Office Building?

Theatre Binge, Part 4 - Beautiful: The final stage of this recent theatre binge was seeing Beautiful: the Carole King Musical at the Kennedy Center. I’m not a big fan of jukebox musicals and probably would not have chosen to see this on my own, but there was enough of interest this season for me to do a Kennedy Center theatre subscription. The book is pretty thin – teenage pregnancy leads Carole King to marry songwriting partner, Gerry Goffin. Their marriage goes wrong, but her career works out. There’s a parallel line on the relationship between their friends and rivals, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. The main thing is that the show is full of music that is sure to bring a nostalgic smile (and maybe some silent mouthing of words) from pretty much anyone of my generation. Let’s just say that every 50-something woman I know owned a copy of King’s album, Tapestry. There were earlier pop songs, some of them of the "I didn’t know they wrote that" variety. All in all, this was enjoyable fare and I was able to forgive it the lack of depth, e.g. a bare hint at the issue of white songwriters writing for black musicians.

More to Come: I made a trip down to Norfolk and Virginia Beach last weekend, but this is long enough already, so that will wait.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: Judy Carne was the "Sock It to Me" girl on Laugh-In, and apparently had a rather traumatic life of addiction after the show. Jean Darling was an actress, starting as a child star in the Our Gang series in the silent movie era, with her career peaking when she played Carrie in the original Broadway cast of Carousel. She also had over 50 mystery stories published. Martin Milner was a television actor, best known for Route 66 and Adam 12. For some reason, I seem to remember that either he or Kent McCord visited my school when I was in 5th or 6th grade, but it’s all very vague.

Birthday: I turned 57 on Friday. So when exactly am I going to feel like I’m an adult?

Travel and Weather: The other thing I was doing on Friday (in addition to working and aging) was flying to Albuquerque. I had a rather shorter connection in Denver than I would have preferred, so when I saw that there were weather holds in my area, I called up United and changed to an earlier flight (via Houston) with a longer layover. That meant a taxi to the airport, which worked fine, but was pricy. We boarded more or less on time, then got held because another plane in line to take off had smoke in the cockpit. And then came the weather. In the end, my hour and a half layover at IAH turned into about a 6 minute connect time. I did make the connection, but it was stressful.

I also had a bit of a complication when I arrived. Picking up the rental car was straightforward enough. And I could see the hotel. Figuring out where to turn to actually get to it was another matter. It didn’t help that the rental car people had said (incorrectly) I needed to turn before the freeway. So it took me, um, about 45 minutes to drive maybe a bit over a mile.

Old Town / Downtown Albuquerque: I started my weekend by doing a volksmarch in Old Town and downtown Albuquerque. I’d actually done an earlier iteration of this walk several years ago, but they have rerouted it, presumably to highlight some of the newer downtown architecture. It is also possible that they didn’t reroute it, but I have a lousy memory. Anyway, there was a point where I ran into a group being led on a tour by a couple of people from the historical society, who insisted I needed to check out the interior of the Kimo Theatre, which they described as "Pueblo deco." That is, it is art deco with Pueblo themes. It is, indeed, worth a look. I also went through the Holocaust Museum because it was there. Most of what they have are photos, but there are a few artifacts. The museum also addresses various other genocides, though it misses some (e.g. nothing about Cambodia). All in all, it was a good walk, though the section between Old Town and downtown is fairly bland.

Adobe Wonderland: After my morning walk (and a stop for lunch), I drove up to Santa Fe. I stopped by the visitor information center and picked up the map for the Capital volksmarch (which I would do the next day). Then I drove over to Kakawa Chocolate House, which had been highly recommended by friends. The rose almond elixir was a spicy blend of chocolate, almond, rose, and chili – quite tasty, though a bit chunky as hot chocolate goes. I also bought a couple of chocolates to eat for dessert later that evening. Then I drove to my hotel and took a nap before getting dinner (and eating those chocolates).

In the morning, I did the Capital walk, which took in most of central Santa Fe, including the capitol and Canyon Road, as well as the Plaza. I’m not really a fan of adobe and things were rather too crowded, but it was still a pleasant walk. I also appreciated that the directions pointed out a few details I might not otherwise have noted – e.g. the plaque to Billy the Kid across from Burro Alley. And, especially, the triangle with the tetragrammaton carved into an arch over the door of the cathedral.

There were a couple of art shows and a large crafts fair, possibly in connection with the upcoming Fiesta. I wasn’t intending to buy anything, but I saw a salt cellar I couldn’t resist. It’s shaped like a bathtub, with the shower head forming the spoon. I also got a bowl of cashew mole for lunch (and sopapillas, of course). And I decided it was hot enough out by then that I needed to go back to Kakawa and try their ice cream. I went for the citrus pistachio, which I thought would be more refreshing than chocolate.

I drove back to Albuquerque, where I had a light supper and a nice conversation with [livejournal.com profile] slymongoose. My flights home (again, via IAH) were fine, with no weather drama. All in all, ir made for a nice weekend excursion.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: Kyle Jean-Baptiste was a theatre actor. Wayne Dyer wrote self-help books. Marvin Mandel was a former governor of Maryland, whose tenure in office was marred by his conviction (later overturned) for mail fraud and racketeering. Personally, I think the more interesting scandal is the one in which his wife refused to move out of the governor’s mansion when he took up with another woman and filed for divorce.

Wes Craven was a film director, best known for horror films (e.g. Nightmare on Elm Street). Oddly, he died of natural causes, though brain cancer is a pretty horrible death as I understand it.

The death I most want to highlight is that of Oliver Sacks. To say he was a neurologist and a writer is inadequate. His writing spanned a range of topics, but I think the key is that he always focused on the humanity,, whether writing about neurology, travel, or his family. I was privileged to hear him give a talk at Sixth and I, as well as to read several of his books, which were always informative and highly readable. His death was no surprise but was still a major loss.

Kin Davis: For anybody who has been living in a cave for the past couple of weeks, Ms. Davis is the court clerk in Kentucky who is refusing to issue marriage licenses because she has religious objections to same sex marriage. My take on this is that if one has religious objections to doing one’s job, the only proper response is to resign from that job.


I do want to note, however, that I am disturbed by the people who are citing her hypocrisy because she has been married 4 times. Her statement is that she converted after the divorces and I find no reason to doubt that, especially since this was apparently due to a deathbed wish. Her past is not relevant to the current situation and I believe it is not appropriate to harp on it.

And, of course, the people who are criticizing her based on her appearance (and, specifically, her hair – apparently her church does not permit women to cut their hair) are also way out of bounds. The point is that she does not meet one of the basic job requirements (that is, willingness to comply with the law on issuing marriage licenses) and should, therefore, not be in the job.


Plymouth (Michigan) Volksmarch: I have to admit that I had not actually heard of Plymouth, Michigan until a couple of weeks ago. I was flying into Detroit for a trip to Toledo and had time to kill during the day, so looked for nearby Volksmarch events that would satisfy some of the special programs I am trying to complete. It was an easy drive to Plymouth and the walk proved quite pleasant. The downtown area has a number of attractive historic houses (as well as some interesting specialty shops, though there is the creeping chainification that one finds everywhere nowadays), while the second half of the walk followed a path along the Rouge River and around what they called a lake, but I would consider a pond. I wouldn’t say there was anything essential from a tourist perspective, but it was a good way to spend my time.


Toledo – the Corporal Klinger Tour: For those who remember M*A*S*H, Corporal Klinger (played by Jamie Farr) was from Toledo (as was Farr). That led to some ad libs that immortalized a couple of Toledo institutions to those of us of a certain generation – namely, Tony Packo’s Café and the Toledo Mud Hens, the AAA minor league affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. I love baseball, so when I saw plans for a Flyertalk Do that would involve both of those, I figured it was worth the trip. I flew to Detroit late Friday night, spent Saturday morning doing the volksmarch mentioned above, then drove to Toledo. It’s an easy drive, but there was a lot of road work. Anyway, I went to my hotel, rested a bit, then headed downtown.

We were actually not at the original Tony Packo’s, but at the branch by the ballpark. The food is Hungarian and runs to things like chili dogs and dumplings and such. Not exactly light fare, nor are what they call dumplings what I think of by that name (i.e. not like either knaidlach or Czech bread dumplings, but more pasta-ish), but the food was tasty enough (especially some sort of potato side dish) and the atmosphere was great. The Great Lakes IPA was more bitter than I prefer, so was just okay. There was, of course, plenty of flyertalkish talk, i.e. frequent flyer miles and tricks associated therewith.

We walked across the street to the ballpark and found our seats. And rain. Fortunately, the delay was not very long and the game was on. It was an exciting one, with some decidedly questionable calls (in my opinion). After being behind for most of the game, the Mud Hens did win in the end. By the way, we had very good seats (in the club section) and I thought it was a nice little ballpark. I liked that they had everyone sing the national anthem, instead of treating it as a performance piece. (People were, alas, considerably more pathetic for the 7th inning stretch. My treatise on the relationship between the decline of Western civilization and the failure of people to sing along is available on request.) Anyway, the fans seemed reasonably into the game and I thought it was worth the trip.

I had vague plans to do another volksmarch on Sunday morning, but the weather was dreary and I was tired, so I just had a late and lazy morning. For complicated reasons (less money, more miles), my flight home was via EWR so I got to spend some time rereading the index to Dante’s Inferno to figure out which circle of hell Newark Terminal A is.

Speaking of Transportation: If you change the route of a shuttle bus and, in the process, eliminate a stop that has been in use for at least 10 years, it might be helpful to put up a sign at that stop to let people know.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Aside from the bad hotel experience, I did enjoy the trip to Vegas. I did the North Strip volksmarch event again, and, while there is still a lot of construction leading to bleak emptiness, there is some new stuff of interest.

The most obvious is the High Roller, allegedly the world's tallest observation wheel. I would like to ride it someday, but heard it is best at sunset, which comes too early this time of year. It is associated with The Linq, which seems to have replaced the Imperial Palace and incorporated O'Shea's.

The two new casino hotels I noted are The Cromwell, which is claimed to be a boutique hotel, and the SLS. The latter looked very nice, too, with interesting restaurants. I would try staying there, though the location is kind of out of the way (the north end of the monorail.)

Ah, Vegas. Always changing.
fauxklore: (travel)
I went to Greenville, South Carolina for part of the weekend, primarily to do two Volksmarch events. I've actually been to Greenville twice before, including once for a Volksmarch. (The other time was because it is a convenient place to stop between Atlanta and North Carolina).

It's an easy flight down on a United puddlehopper, though terminal A at IAD remains annoying. They board several flights at once, which means inevitable chaos from people who don't understand how it works. In this case, a gate agent for another flight came on to our plane at least 4 times, trying to track down someone missing from the Knoxville flight.

I stayed at the Hyatt Place, which was adequate. My biggest complaints are that: 1) the sound proofing was inadequate and 2) the heat worked via one of those underwindow units where you turn a dial, instead of via a thermostat.

As for the Volksmarch events, the historic Greenville event was excellent, including the West End (which has Fluor Field, where the Greenville Drive, a Red Sox affiliate play, and the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum) before a bit of Falls Park on the Reedy, the Hampton-Pinckney Historic District, Heritage Green (with various museums), and Main Street. The other event - which I opted to do only the 5K version of because it was drizzly - was less interesting, mostly through various parks (including much more of Falls Park on the Reedy), though it did include the statue of Shoeles Joe Jackson to qualify as a baseball event. So both were baseball events and qualified to finish that program.

Getting home was easy and we even got in early. All in all, a nice weekend excursion.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I dragged myself out of the house today to do a Volksmarch in Frederick. I would have preferred doing the walk in Ashland (near Richmond) but I was running late and Frederick, despite being in darkest Maryland, is much closer. In fact, I could have made it there in under 45 minutes had I not followed the directions from google maps which had a series of unnecessary (and, in one case, incorrect) turns.

I've done this walk before, though it has changed a little since the visitor center moved. It's still a jaunt through downtown, over to Hood College, then along a couple of park trails, followed by walking around Mt. Olivet Cemetery. The point was that it qualifies as a baseball walk (since Harry Grove Stadium is visible across the street from the cemetery) and a mural walk (for the trompe l'oeil Community Bridge. It was mostly a good walk, though I am definitely feeling old and achy and, in particular, my left hip was sore at the end of the 10K.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
This is one of those big, catch-up entries. Basically, it is everything up to my mother's death.

Celebrity Death Watch: Socialite Deborah Cavendish was the last of the colorful Mitford sisters. James Traficant was a scandal-ridden congressman. Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier continued his father’s ruin of Haiti. Michael Sata was the president of Zambia. Jerrie Mock was the first woman to fly solo around the world. Barbara Washburn was the first woman to climb Mount McKinley (in 1947, when nobody called it Denali.) Polly Bergen was an actor and game show panelist. Marcia Strassman was an actor, probably most famous for her role on Welcome Back, Kotter. Geoffrey Holder was an actor, dancer, and choreographer. Singer Paul Revere (of the Raiders) died appropriately at 76. Oscar de la Renta was a fashion designer before he bought it. John-Roger was a cult leader.

There are 2 celebrity deaths I want to particularly highlight. First, Ben Bradlee was the editor of the Washington Post for many years and set the newspaper on a path to being a major leader in investigative journalism by publishing The Pentagon Papers. in the early 1970s. And, finally, Tom Magliozzi was either Click or Clack, of Car Talk, an NPR show that actually made auto mechanics accessible and amusing.

Non-celebrity Deaths of Note: My mother will get her own entry. The past couple of months also saw several losses of people I used to work with, including Barbara Ching and Howie Holtz. The biggest loss in that category was my long-term mentor, Trudy Bergen, who taught me a lot about how to succeed as an engineer, with some specifics about life at the Circle-A Ranch and satellite ground systems, in particular. She also was a great model for balance in life, as she was a respected quilt artist and spent a lot of time on bicycle touring and had, in more recent years, taken up ice dancing with her husband, who she lost just a couple of years ago. I will dearly miss her wisdom and good humor.

Food Pornography: I went out to dinner a few times in October, but all of them were at places I have been to multiple times before, so there is nothing especially revelatory to note.

Walking in Cleveland: I spent part of Columbus Day weekend in Cleveland, mostly to do a couple of volksmarch events (both qualifying as baseball walks). One took me through Lake View Cemetery, which has the graves of several famous people (e.g. John D. Rockefeller, James A. Garfield, Eliot Ness, Harvey Pekar). Most significantly from the volksmarch standpoint, the walk included the grave of the only major league player killed by a thrown baseball, Ray Chapman. It was, of course, a pitcher for the Source of All Evil in the Universe who threw the fatal pitch. The other walk was around downtown Cleveland and would have been far pleasanter had there not been a football game, with the resulting large crowds. If the team is the Browns, why is most of their team clothing orange? By the way, I stayed at the Hyatt at the Arcade, which was convenient, but had the usual Hyatt sound-proofing (or lack thereof) problem.

Havana Curveball: This movie, which I saw as part of the year-round offerings of the Washington Jewish Film Festival, involves a boy who chooses to collect baseball equipment for Cuba as his Bar Mitzvah project and his efforts to get the equipment to Cuba and distribute it. His family eventually travels there and he has a few surprises along the way. I had a personal interest in this since my grandparents lived in Havana for a while. And, of course, I like baseball.

Elmer Gantry: Signature Theatre put on a revival of this musical. It was lively and entertaining. I have never read the novel nor seen the movie, so I can’t say how much it deviated from those. There was a hint at a racial side plot, involving a black family who become part of the traveling evangelical troupe, that I thought could have been exploited more. The performances were also good, with Nova Payton continuing to demonstrate true stardom even in a relatively minor role.

Wordless: This program was part of the Jewish Literary Festival and featured Art Spiegelman (the author of Maus) in collaboration with jazz composer Philip Johnston. This was a mix of lecture, slide show, and music, all built around wordless comics from the past, primarily the early 20th century. It was interesting, though I’d have preferred more of Spiegelman’s own material and less of, say, Lynd Ward.

Monterey: I was all set for a lovely weekend in Monterey, part of a FlyerTalk DO. I flew in after work on Friday. Saturday morning started with breakfast, followed by a tour of Tor House (the home of poet and amateur stonemason Robinson Jeffers). We stopped for lunch and headed to Point Lobos, which is beautiful. And then my cell phone rang. My uncle told me the bad news and I scrambled to change my flights so I could get home and drive to New York to bury my mother.
fauxklore: (travel)
Celebrity Death Watch: Eileen Ford co-founded a modeling agency. Tommy Ramone was the drummer of the Ramones. Nadine Gordimer was a South African novelist and activist. Johnny Winter was a blues guitarist. Szymon Szurmej ran the Jewish theatre of Warsaw. Elaine Stritch was a notable actress and a lady who lunched. James Garner also acted and I associate him with The Rockford Files though he was already well-known by the time that series premiered. Albert Stunkard did much of the research proving that obesity is almost entirely genetic.

I want to particularly highlight Tom Tierney, who was the preeminent paper doll artist of our times. I have several of his paper doll books, but just a small fraction of the over 400 he created. His earlier career was largely as a fashion illustrator, so it’s no surprise that he was particularly well known for his dolls with historic costumes. It’s hard to imagine another artist achieving his dominance in what is, to be fair, a specialized field.

Travel to Maine: I had been scheduled to fly from DCA to PWM via EWR. The problem with regional jets late in the day is that they are flying several segments earlier in the day, any of which can get delayed for any number of reasons. I had a two-hour layover, but that was starting to look shorter and shorter, so I figured it made sense to switch to a non-stop out of IAD. That worked out surprisingly well as, not only did I get in several hours earlier, that change dropped the price of my rental car nearly in half. And I got to the hotel (the Embassy Suites by the Portland Airport) in time for their evening reception, providing me with a perfectly adequate supper.

Augusta: Continuing my obsession with state capitals, I drove to Augusta to do the capital volksmarch there. The walk started with a long, bland section from the Villes Arboretum to the Capitol complex. The Capitol building itself might have been attractive had the dome not been completely covered in scaffolding. There was a reasonably attractive park area across the street from it, however. There were several historical signs (in both English and French), mostly having to do with the Civil War. It turns out that this "museum in the streets" concept is common throughout Maine, with similar set-ups in Bar Harbor and Portland, for example. The route then continued through an area with some fine 19th century houses before a marginally less bland section with views of the Kennebec River returning to the arboretum. Overall, it was just an okay walk, but it served its purpose.

I had intended to go to the state museum after the walk, but it was, alas, closed on Sunday. So I just went to my hotel instead.

The Coast: Monday had me driving to the coast, with a couple of stops on my way north. I checked out the Penobscot Narrows Bridge Observatory, which has nice views but is kind of pricey ($7 for non-residents of Maine). Admission also includes Fort Knox, which is pretty much your standard 19th century fort and not really all that exciting.

My more important stop was just across the bridge in Bucksport. I tell a ghost story based on a legend from that town. The gist of the story is that the town founder, Colonel Buck, had a woman named Ida Black hanged for witchcraft because she spurned his advances. On the way to the gallows, she swore she would come back and dance on his grave. When he died, the image of a boot appeared on his gravestone and kept coming back every time it was sanded off. They even replaced the gravestone and it reappeared. And, yes, indeed, Ida Black is still dancing on his grave. I have photographic proof!

Acadia: My most important destination was Acadia National Park. I had time on Monday afternoon to see a little bit of the park. I should probably have stayed longer then, as it rained on Tuesday, heavily at times. Inevitably, it would start pouring whenever I walked one of the trails and was at the point furthest from my car. The rain did let up, but I still had to deal with puddles and such, especially around Jordan Pond. I earned my popovers at the Jordan Pond House. Also, there are supposed to be lovely views from the top of Cadillac Mountain and around Somes Sound (the only fjord in the eastern United States), but I can only testify to views of fog banks.

I could have used another two or three days up that way, but needed to get back to Portland for the National Puzzlers’ League convention, which was the point of the whole trip. That deserves its own entry. As does the Capital Fringe Festival. Those will have to wait a few days.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
UNLV Volksmarch: As I mentioned before, the primary excuse for the Las Vegas trip was getting in a Volksmarch event towards the baseball special events program. That meant doing the UNLV year round event. The route started out past a not very exciting stretch of restaurants and businesses, before turning onto Paradise Road and passing the Hard Rock Hotel. I stopped there briefly to use the restroom (and to gamble a little, coming out a few dollars ahead). The walk continued on to the UNLV campus. I should mention that I ran into three other walkers (local women) on the way and chatted briefly with them.

Anyway, the campus is not particularly attractive. In particular, most of the buildings are blocky and labeled with three letter codes, rather than names. However, there are a couple of interesting bits of modern art here and there, with the most prominent being a huge sculpture of a flashlight. There is also a little xeriscape garden. But, while it is not impressive overall, the campus served its purpose since UNLV is the alma mater of a few major leaguers.

The walk returned past the Atomic Testing Museum, which I contemplated but decided that it would be worth more time than I could give it. The rest of the route was fairly uninteresting, going past a corporate area.

All in all, this wasn’t the most interesting walk ever, but the exercise was pleasant, the weather was perfect, and, again, it served its purpose.

Ka: Looking over which Cirque du Soleil shows I had not yet seen, I chose Ka, partly because it sounded interesting and partly because, being at the MGM Grand (where I was staying) made it convenient. It was a good choice. The show is a bit different from most of theirs in having more of a narrative element. It tells the story of boy and girl twins, who are separated by war and their journey to reunite and bring peace to their people. And, oh yeah, each of the twins finds love along the way.

There’s still plenty of acrobatics and special effects and all the other stuff that Cirque is known for. I don’t really have the vocabulary to describe the acrobatic parts I was most impressed with. But I can note the performer who played the mother of the twins, who did an excellent job of conveying her emotions and who brought a nicely humorous touch to the whole show. I also really enjoyed the music, which was of the fusion world beat sort. By the way, I googled it and learned that the lyrics (and bits of conversation) are in a made-up language called Cirquish.

As a final note, since a performer died when a rope broke last year, the final scene is done with video. I did find that a bit of a let-down, especially as it was a bit blurry, but not a huge issue. I’m more interested in theatre than in circus acts per se, so the whole show worked well for me.

People Watching: One of the main things I like in Vegas is people watching. Are such short miniskirts really in fashion? Back in the early 1970’s, the rule for respectability was fingertip-length and I saw an awful lot of girls wearing shorter ones than that. I was tempted to ask a few "are you a hooker or do you just dress like one?" but decided that would be rude. And, oy, the shoes. The most amusing (and frightening) example was the woman on crutches who was wearing 6 inch heels.

Food: Vegas has great restaurants. This trip involved a critical mistake, however. I ate a plate of pancakes (at the Avenue Café at the MGM Grand) on Saturday morning – and was too full to manage more than a slice of pizza for supper. But did I learn? I did the buffet on Sunday morning – and, of course, ate too much to really want to eat anything the rest of the day. It was a good reminder of why I don’t normally go for buffets.

So, alas, no food pornography this trip.

Gambling: I understand that I am not exempt from the laws of probability, so I look at gambling as entertainment. I am going to spend X amount of money on it and it’s a question of how much time that money will get me.

That said, I do have some quirks that create issues. I know these things are not true, but I still believe that there is such a thing as gambling feng shui and one should not, for example, ever play a machine that is next to a trash can. Someone coming by cleaning nearby can disrupt the flow of luck. And there is the whole issue of smokers (who also create auras of disruptive luck). A few years ago, there were more non-smoking areas, but I didn’t find a single one this time.

I stick to machine gambling because I prefer to lose my money in smaller increments. I always bet the minimum amount to play the full number of lines. If I play video poker, I look carefully at the payoffs, because there are some that cheat you by only repaying your bet on a two pair hand, instead of paying twice your bet. For slot machines, I like ones with graphics that are not the classic fruit machine types. I like certain other features, too – e.g. interactive bonuses.

Anyway, the problem is that I am a bit weird about numbers. It’s one of those borderline OCD things. I don’t like to end up with odd amounts of change, so I will tend to keep playing until I have a dollar amount that is, ideally, an even dollar, though amounts that end in quarters are acceptable. This would be less of a problem if there were more machines that let you select lines, since I don’t mind playing less than the maximum number of lines if it is to even out the payout. The trend now is towards alleged penny slots that really have a 40 or 50 cent minimum bet, however.

You can imagine how it made me crazy when I ended up playing a machine that had a minimum bet of 89 cents. The problem was that I kept winning on it. In the end, I came out about a hundred bucks ahead, but it made me very anxious.

What I Needed to Do More: The lack of external cues about what time it is leaves me sleep deprived. In theory, I could have slept late (well, except Monday morning when I had to get to the airport). But, in practice, it doesn’t happen. Vegas is not the place for sleep.

On a final note, there is an observation wheel (called Linq, for reasons that are beyond me) being constructed in the center strip. It should be worth checking out when it’s open.

Snippets

Jan. 24th, 2014 02:56 pm
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
As usual, I have a bunch of catching up to do.

Used Bookstores and Spices: I finally got around to doing a used bookstore run last weekend. It was a particularly successful one, in that I left the house with 65 books and came home with only 4 of those (plus 18 new to me books, but that is to be expected). I also took advantage of the last store on my route being in that general vicinity to stop into Penzey’s and buy saffron. I will note, however, that they had no true cinnamon, at least not in stick form, but only cassia. (My issue is not the coumarin, as I don’t use it in huge amounts, but cassia is harder to grind and has a harsher taste.) They also don’t carry rosewater, so I still need to make a trip to one of the Indian stores (probably Aditi) to stock up. Actually, I should check first to see if Shopper’s Food Warehouse in Fairfax has it, since they carry some seasonings other supermarkets around here don’t (e.g. star anise) and do have a Middle Eastern section.

Game Night: My Chavurah had a game night on Saturday night. It was kind of weird, but I realize that most people would consider what I think of as a game night as weird. Basically, there was no interest in strategy games at all and complete distaste for anything that suggested actual competition. It was still reasonably fun. We played Balderdash, which I am very good at because: 1) I have a good vocabulary, meaning I don’t consider words like "succubus" to be the least bit obscure and 2) I understand what dictionary definitions sound like and can, therefore, snooker other people into picking my definition. We also played Sour Apples to Apples, which adds a silly penalty thing if your choice is considered least appropriate. In my opinion, that adds nothing to the game.

I should try to make time to go to real game nights, i.e. ones where people are more amenable to playing things with some level of complexity, thought, and feigned malice.

Knitting Group: Sunday involved knitting group. I finally found the needles, yarn, and pieces in progress for a particular sweater I’ve been working on. I even found my notions bag. So, of course, the pattern went missing. I worked on something else instead, but this is extremely annoying.

Weather: Monday was decent out, but we got 4 or so inches of snow on Tuesday, leading me to work from home. That’s a reminder that I really need a new desk chair. It’s been extremely cold since and I am feeling a certain amount of cabin fever.

Do Not Analyze This Dream: I had a dream the other night in which I stopped at a semi-rural resort / retreat center for dinner on my way to somewhere in Pennsylvania and found that several of my friends were there at a storytelling workshop. They talked me into staying for the night, during which I discovered that I had forgotten to bring my Volksmarch books with me. Much of the dream involved whether or not I should drive back home to retrieve them.

Notes to Myself: I scribbled the following in the front of a crossword book:

102 Loon Lake

105 (?) Yellowhead Lake

I am reasonably sure that there is no significance to this being in a puzzle book and that was just a handy piece of paper, suggesting I most likely wrote it on a plane or a train. If it were not for the question mark, I’d think it had to do with Volksmarch events. But, as it is, I am befuddled. Any ideas?

Make the Punishment Fit the Crime: When I rule the world, anyone who submits a document for approval without an acronym list shall be subject to drowning in a large vat of alphabet soup.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather yesterday to drove out to Winchester and do the Volksmarch there. Given my calendar, this is almost certainly the last event I will do this year. It was a pleasant enough walk for the most part, but the local sidewalks could be better maintained. There are plenty of historic signs to read, which is good in some ways but makes a walk take longer for those who are as compulsive about this sort of thing as I am. The instructions had pretty good notes (mostly pointers to those historic signs, but a few things about Patsy Cline, too.)

I should note that I drove out on Route 50, which was annoying because of the slow speed limits in various towns along the way (Aldie, Middleburg, Upperville), as well as Loudon County's traffic circles. On the way back, I took the longer but faster route using I-81 and I-66. Even this time of year, with the trees bare, it's nice being reminded how pretty Virginia is.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I am, of course, remarkably busy and, hence, behind on writing. This should get me more or less caught up on things I am willing to write about publicly.

Celebrity death watch: There are several interesting celebrity deaths to note. Muriel Siebert was the first woman to have a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. I have to admit I had not realized that newsman David Frost, who is probably most famous for his interviews with Richard Nixon, was still alive until he wasn't. Another "end of an era" death to note is that of science fiction writer, Frederik Pohl. In my opinion, he was more significant as an editor than as a writer, but I'm also not a big science fiction person, so my opinion is only semi-educated. Cal Worthington was a car dealer whose commercials in California featured his "dog" Spot (various animals, most memorably a lion and a hippo) and a catchy "Go see Cal" jingle. And Seamus Heaney was an Irish poet who translated Beowulf.

Reno Mileage Run: In late August, I did a quick trip to Reno. This was pretty much a mileage run, but Reno is a good place to do that to since you can arrive late at night and depart early in the morning without bothering with a hotel room. In this case, I took a shuttle from the airport to the Peppermill and gambled all night, coming out about 20 bucks ahead. The travel also went fairly smoothly, despite a delay in the first leg that made the connection a bit tighter than I'd have preferred. All in all, with a good price on the ticket, it was a fairly painless way to rack up some miles.

Baseball: Goldstar often has discount tickets for baseball games, so provided a cheap way to see the Nationals play the Mets. It was a bit of a pain picking up the ticket, since the third party ticket office is all the way around the ballpark from the main box office with confusing signage. But cheap is cheap and I even got a free t-shirt. This game was a case of divided loyalties for me. The Mets won and I was pleased that their victory was largely due to a 2-run homer by Ike Davis, who is more or less the Art Shamsky of our times. (So, sue me. When in doubt, I always root for Jewish baseball players.)

Zaytinya and Men's Collars Over the Years: The Smithsonian American Art Museum / National Portrait Gallery was presenting the movie Wings, the first ever best picture Oscar winner. I made plans to go with a couple of friends. One of them joined me for lunch at Zaytinya beforehand. This is the Mediterranean outpost of the Jose Andres empire and is every bit as good as his other places. They were continuing Restaurant Week, so it was also excellent value. All of the food was good, but particularly notable dishes included the baba ghannouge and adana kebab.

We had time before the movie to look at a little of the museum. I've been to that museum a lot, so imposed my favorite exhibit there (David Beck's MVSEVM) on my friend. We also looked at the patent models and the portraits of the Presidents. I usually speculate on men's facial hair, but she focused on the collars, which don't lie flat until the late 19th century. There may be some correlation with beards. There are also changes in neckwear, but there is something of a chicken and egg problem here.

I'll write about the movie separately, since I seem to still be seeing enough movies to make them worth their own quarterly wrap-up.

Dinner in Singapore: The MIT Club of Washington provided a slightly early birthday dinner for me, in the form of an event at the Embassy of Singapore. The talks included a short one by the ambassador on the history of Singapore, followed by a marine biologist discussing sustainability. The food was reasonably varied, with meat, chicken, fish and vegetable dishes. Plus galub jamum for dessert. Good food and intelligent conversation always make for my sort of evening.

Speaking of Birthdays: I'm 55. As a few people pointed out, I'm eligible for the over-55 menus at various chain restaurants I don't normally eat at.

Culpeper Volksmarch: I am trying to get caught up on the baseball walks program, so did a year round event in Culpeper. The route was quite hilly and, therefore, kicked my butt. I also need new walking shoes as my feet were killing me for the last kilometer or so (of 10). But the walk served its purpose as (among other things) it passed the childhood home (with historical sign) of Eppa Rixley, who pitched for the Phillies.


Story Swap: We had our regular story swap on Saturday night, which is always fun. I need to find some time to work on some new things. In lieu of that, I told "Why I'm Not a Millionaire." Jane had an excellent Norwegian story.

Miss Saigon: This was the first show of the season at Signature Theatre. They did a reasonably good job, given the limitations of the score. Diana Huey was impressive as Kim, as was Tom Semsa as The Engineer. I also want to note Chris Sizemore as John. I think the score is pretty weak and some of Richard Maltby, Jr.'s lyrics are remarkably amateurish, e.g. rhyming "moon" and "fortune." I can also quibble with the orchestration in a few places, as I firmly believe that a song lyric referring to "a song played by a single saxophone" should not be accompanied by keyboards and percussion (in addition to the saxophone). Still, I thought Karma Camp's choreography for "Enter the Dragon" was impressive and I got all teary-eyed during "Bui Doi," a song about the plight of street children. My bottom line is that Signature did as well as possible, given the limitations of the material.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Completing March, I had a bunch of travel in the latter half of the month, partly to feel safe about meeting the terms for the United challenge I was doing (which I did succeed at).

It started with a theatre binge in New York, for which I actually flew up to JFK, which is not as convenient as the train, though the Air Train into the city makes it tolerable. Before the theatre going, I had time for my usual midtown stroll, which involves a number of personal touchstones. I feel reassured whenever I go to New York and my favorite places – the Chrysler Building, the Salmon Building (which I only learned the identity of within the past year), and (most of all) the library with its lions – are still there.

The motivation for the trip was the Encores production of It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman, a musical I love the score of. I love the score even more after seeing this production. Encores does concert versions of forgotten musicals and their interpretation of “concert version” means cutting out a large part of the book, though they leave enough dialogue to make things easy to follow. One of the things I particularly love is the orchestration, which has 3 French horns, 3 violas, and none of those twerpy violins. (I took viola for a couple of years in school, so am biased against those screechy guys who stole the melody while I got to play three notes every 10 measures.) The downside is, of course, the earworms that got set off and I hereby apologize to everyone who had to listen to me humming “You’ve Got Possibilities” and “The Woman for the Man” for the next week. (I also love “The Strongest Man in the World” but it is not quite as sticky. In fact, the only song from this show I don’t much care for is “It’s Supernice.”) Anyway, the staging was clever (using a cardboard figure to do the flying, for example), the cast was right on the mark, and the show was sheer fun. There was a talkback afterwards and a particular thrill is that Charles Strouse and Lee Adams were there. By the way, a fun bit of theatre trivia is that all of the scientists referenced in the song “Revenge” are real, although the dates of the Nobel prizes are changed.

As if that wasn’t enough theatre fun, after getting my New York deli fix (ah, full sour pickles!) I went to the Musicals Tonight! production of Strike Up the Band. Anybody who knows me knows that I believe that the Gershwins were the pinnacle of American music. This was also a concert production in the more conventional sense – actors carrying scripts, a piano instead of a full orchestra – but it was still a lot of fun. The production used the 1927 version with some of the 1930 songs (e.g. “Soon”). I haven’t verified it, but I suspect consistency with the 1990 studio cast recording. At any rate, the show does have a bit of a Gilbert and Sullivan feel to it (which is a good thing) and is very very funny. The performances were, however, a bit uneven.

In the morning, I flew from EWR to BOS, where I met up with [livejournal.com profile] ron_newman and [livejournal.com profile] nonelvis (who had, somewhat surprisingly, never met before) for brunch in Somerville. After food and lively conversation, I took a long walk, using slightly vague directions, to Mount Auburn Cemetery. The only real issue was figuring out where to get off the path around Fresh Pond and return to the street. It had been years since I had last walked around the cemetery, but it was as pleasant a walk as I remembered it being. Then I walked up to Harvard Square, browsed at (but did not) books at the Coop, and got the T back to the airport for my flight home.

I spent the first Pesach seder with friends. The highlight was a discussion of Chad Gadya which centered on whether or not two zuzim is a good price for a kid. I admit to not knowing the exchange rate for the zuz and I am not up on the price of goats in any currency, but it was still amusing late night conversation. The second night was saner.

Then I did a quick day trip to Louisville, Kentucky. I did the two-state Volksmarch event there. I opted for just the 11 kilometer version because I needed the extra time to tour the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory. The factory tour is highly recommended. I got to see them making opening day bats for David Wright of the Mets! They were also putting the finish on Ryan ZImmeran’s bats. I’m now more conscious of how customized bats are for major league players. I continued a little beyond where the walking route did and succeeded in finding the plaque that commemorates the writing of “Happy Birthday.” The walk also had a stretch through parks along the Ohio River and crossed a bridge to Indiana (and back).

The trip home featured a flight delay on the first leg from SDF to CLE. Since I was concerned about my connection, I asked about being protected on a flight from CLE to IAD, which was scheduled for an hour after my CLE to DCA leg. Instead, the agent rebooked me on Delta via DTW. The DTW flight got to DCA just a half hour after my original flight and I credit Delta flights to Alaska Air, so that’s okay, but it was weird. (Looking at flightaware after the fact, it looks like I could have easily made my original connection, by the way.) I am still working on getting original routing credit from United.

Finally, my friend Suzanne flew out here and we did a couple of training walks for the One Day Hike. We did 13 miles on Saturday and 8 on Sunday, which is decent. But, of course, walking 31.1 is still going to be challenging. Challenge is good.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I think I've figured out how to do these, since I've been using the same format for a few years.

Behind a cut due to length )
fauxklore: (Default)
I'm about to go out of town for a few days (and turn a year older in the process, which is an interesting side effect of jet lag or the earth's rotation and revolution or both). So I figured I would catch up on what I've been up to.

Shameless Self-Promotion: I have a bunch of storytelling events coming up.

First up is Wednesday September 19 at 7:30 p.m., when I will be one of six storytellers at Tales in the Village at the Friendship Heights Community Center in Chevy Chase, MD. This is free and is just a couple of blocks from the metro.

Then on Saturday September 29 at 7 p.m. I will be part of Better Said Than Done at Epicure Cafe in Fairfax, VA. That costs 10 bucks and is travel themed.

On October 20th, Voices in the Glen is doing our Not Quite Halloween concert at Seeker's Church in Takoma Park, MD. I am still finalizing a few things, but should have an announcement out next week.

And the week after that (i.e. October 27th) is VASA's annual Saturday Series event at the Lorton Workhouse Arts Center, which I organized this time. You can find details in this flyer.

Famous People Died: The most famous person who died was, of course, Neil Armstrong, who was quite possibly the coolest person ever. He never exploited his fame from the moon landing but worked quietly behind the scenes to promote the space program.

Other celebrity deaths to note are those of feminist author / theorist Shulamith Firestone and of folklorist Josepha Sherman. The latter also wrote fantasy and science fiction, but I actually get good use out of some of her folklore collections, especially Jewish American Folklore.

Jazz in the Sculpture Garden: One of my former colleagues was trying to organize a networking get-together. I suggested going to one of the free Friday night jazz concerts in the sculpture garden at the National Gallery of Art. One of her new colleagues got a bunch of other people to come. We were actually sitting somewhat out of earshot of the music, but there was sangria and good conversation involved. I should also mention that my mosquito avoidance technique of sitting next to someone who attracts them more than I do was only partially effective.

Augustoberfest Walk: Hagerstown, MD has an annual German-themed festival called Augustoberfest. One of the events involved is a volksmarch. The route, which was new this year, was particularly pleasant, involving a lot of park trails and a checkpoint at an ice cream store, as well as bits of the historic district. Paying for walk credit also got you into the festival, which was less exciting to me since a drive of 70 miles home is not conducive to beer drinking.

Shakespeare Free For All: It is something of a running joke among people who know me that I don't go to Shakespeare. But I won the ticket lottery for the Shakespeare Theatre Company free performance of All's Well That Ends Well so I have now seen two actual Shakespeare plays. It was pretty enjoyable, though the humor is a bit broad for my tastes. And, of course, the plot is terribly sexist. I stayed for the talk-back with the actors afterwards, where they emphasized how much they enjoy Shakespeare's language. I might go to another of his plays in another 30 years or so.
fauxklore: (travel)
Two trivia points to anyone (well, anyone except [livejournal.com profile] cahwyguy) who can identify the source of the title of this entry.

I went to Boston the weekend before last. As you may recall, I was originally supposed to be doing the 3-Day Walk that weekend and had made my travel plans accordingly. While I switched the walk to Philadelphia in October, my friend, Suzanne, was still doing the Boston walk, and I figured I should support her in it. The two of us talked Mary Joan, who had never been to Boston, into flying in as well.

I have, of course, spent a lot of time in Boston, so I set up a fairly complicated plan to entertain myself around New England while Suzanne was walking through suburbia and Mary Joan was seeing famous old stuff. After a brief visit and a cup of tea with a storytelling friend from Southern California (who now lives in Alabama and was in town to visit her son in Maryland), I got a Thursday evening flight out of DCA. Remarkably, I managed to get to the airport and get through security fast enough to get stand-by on the shuttle flight an hour earlier than the one I was booked on. It did mean gate checking my bag but the baggage claim US Air uses for the shuttle flights is not too inconvenient. It also meant a middle seat, but it's a short flight.

Suzanne had rented a car and was waiting for Mary Joan, whose flight had been late coming in from LAX, to check into her hotel. Once that was done, she swung by the terminal and picked me up. We managed to find my hotel (the Holiday Inn Express near the Boston Garden, which is intensely adequate but well located) and they dropped me off before going to park the car. I checked in, left my bag, and walked over to the Union Oyster House (allegedly the oldest restaurant in the country) to meet them for dinner. Both of them ate lobster (a first for Mary Joan), while I got scrod (and, no, that isn't the past tense, thank you very much). It was reasonably good and the atmosphere was very enjoyable. As was the company, of course.

Friday morning saw me checking out of the hotel and returning to the airport to pick up a rental car. I drove up to New Hampshire, with vague plans to revisit some places I had not been to in 40+ years. There was a huge rain storm as I was heading north, but it let up just about as I got to Concord. My first order of business was doing the vollksmarch there to add to my state capital obsession. The 10K route was generally pleasant. The Capitol is much less impressive (with a much smaller dome) than I'd remembered. You'd also think that with a legislature roughly the size of India's, they'd have bigger grounds surrounding the facility. The route also included the state office complex (appropriately, on the site of what had once been the state insane asylum) and the Franklin Pierce's grave (and his home).

I'd had a vague notion of driving out to North Sutton and revisiting the shores of Kezar Lake (where I spent a summer at Camp Birchbrook) and/or going over to New London (where we went to the Hospital Day parade and my brother bought the old atlas that started me down the path of travel daydreaming as a child). But I had stopped in at a tourist information center and was reminded of the existence of Canterbury Shaker Village. I have a long standing interest in 19th century Utopian communities, so that seemed worth a stop. I got there just in time to do the docent tour, which is the only way of visiting the interiors of some of the buildings (e.g. the meeting house and the chapel). The thing I found most interesting was that children raised by the Shakers who decided to leave were given clothing and some money to get themselves started in the world. I suppose I probably had heard that before, but it didn't register until I was looking at a placard that referred to one of the orphans at the village deciding to sign the Covenant and become a Shaker. I also learned that the sole living Shaker village (at Sabbathday Lake in Maine) is now up to 5 people, having gotten two converts. By the way, the drive back to I-93 suggested the real origin of the word "Shaker" was their road conditions, not their style of worship.

I spent the night in Hookset (near Manchester), which is convenient and unexciting. In the morning, I drove east to Exeter, where there was another volksmarch to do. That one was mostly around the grounds of Phillips Exeter Academy. The walk was enjoyable but it was definitely a bit hotter out than I'd have preferred.

When I finished, I drove down to Lowell, Massachusetts for the Lowell Folk Festival. I managed to meet up with both [livejournal.com profile] ron_newman and [livejournal.com profile] captain_peleg without too much difficulty. I also got to hear Michael Winograd (Klezmer), Lunasa (Irish) and Oliver "Tuku" Mtukudzi (from Zimbabwe), all of whom were enjoyable. Mary Joan arrived by train during the latter, but a massive downpour also arrived. We (she, Ron and I) had plans to go to Star Wars night at the Lowell Spinners (minor league baseball) but the game was cancelled. We had dinner at an Asian restaurant before I drove the three back to Boston. The rain was heavy and the lane markings were hard to see, making for a stressful drive. I dropped Ron off near his place, returned the car, pointed Mary Joan to the shuttle to the Blue Line (near her hotel) and headed over to the Cambridge Marriott for the night. That hotel treats me well, but the desk clerk on duty that night had an extremely severe and incomprehensible accent.

The walk was taking Suzanne to a more central location on Sunday morning, so Mary Joan and I met up near Cambridge City Hall to cheer her on. This had been advertised as an official "cheering station" so we expected some sort of signs or balloons or what have you, but there was nothing. We did, however, manage to see (and photograph) her zooming by and applaud for her and so on. After the dust settled, we walked over to the The Friendly Toast for brunch and then hopped the T up to Harvard Square to visit the glass flowers at the Harvard Museum of Natural History. We also had time for a quick look at the rest of the museum. Then we picked up our bags at our respective hotels and went over the Hilton at Logan, planning to leave them and then head over to the closing ceremony for the walk. While we were on our way, Suzanne called. She had finished the walk and didn't want to wait around for the closing ceremony, so was heading over the Hilton. As it happened, our rooms were available, so we just hung out for a while. Eventually we went out to dinner. Sadly, the No Name has deteriorated quite a bit in the years since I had last been there and my scrod was overcooked and bland. Mary Joan and Suzanne also thought their meals were just average.

I had been in New England three entire days without ice cream and needed to remedy that, so bullied my friends into an excursion to Cambridge and the always wonderful Toscanini's. Which is just as wonderful as ever.

All in all, it was a good weekend, except for the Saturday night weather. Now I just have to continue slogging along on preparations for Philadelphia.
fauxklore: (Default)
As I mentioned briefly in my last entry, I went to Las Vegas last weekend. The trip came about mostly because: 1) I wanted to go somewhere warmish over the holiday weekend and 2) I had a United ecert (a discount certificate given as compensation for a problem on a previous flight) making the fare reasonable.

My flight out was delayed about 45 minutes for a mechanical problem but, as I've said before, I really do prefer that they fix the planes. I had an exit row aisle seat, so I was comfortable enough. The movie was In Time, which involves a futuristic society in which time is literally money. Everybody is genetically engineered not to age past 25 and, on turning 25 a clock goes on in their body (with a count down on it shown on their arm). They can earn or be given more time and the economic barriers become time zones. The rich in New Greenwich are, essentially, immortal, while those in the ghetto of Dayton have to live day by day. A bored rich person gives his time to a ghetto dweller, who is then accused of having murdered the rich guy. The premise is interesting enough and it held my attention, but, overall, I found the movie too violent for my tastes.

I stayed at Harrah's, which was just adequate. I'd gotten a good price, however, and it's not like I spend a lot of time in the room and awake when I'm in Vegas. I spent much of Saturday doing a Volksmarch covering the North Strip. I was surprised at how much demolition had gone on. Presumably this will lead to construction at some point. I should add that the reason it took much of the day (aside from getting a later start than I intended) was that I did stop for a few gambling breaks and a bit of browsing at expensive shops and the like.

Saturday night, I went to see Cirque du Soleil's Viva Elvis show at the Aria. Frankly, this was less impressive than other Cirque shows I've seen. There was one excellent trampoline act, involving guys dressed as superheroes since Elvis allegedly liked comic books. And there was a very impressive aerial act involving a very scantily clad man and woman. But, overall, there was less spectacle and more straightforward dancing than I'd expected or wanted.

I ventured downtown on Sunday in order to see the new Mob Museum. This was a rather mixed bag, with some general history on the rise of organized crime mixed with a lot of Las Vegas specific history. The highlight is the courtroom where the Kefauver hearings were held in the 1950's. They show a film that includes actual footage of the hearings and I found that fairly entertaining. There were also various gruesome elements throughout the museum, including very graphic descriptions (and photos) of mob hits. Overall, I thought they did a fairly good job and it was worth a few hours.

I stayed downtown afterwards, having a disappointing sushi dinner at Island Sushi and Grill and watching part of the Fremont Street light show, as well as gambling at various of the casinos. I should also mention having walked past the Heart Attack Grill, which was in the news recently for someone having actually had a heart attack while eating there. Their gimmick is highly caloric food, with a free meal for anybody who weighs over 350 pounds. And they make their customers put on hospital gowns over their clothes. It escapes me why anybody would find this a good idea. By the way, I also puzzle over the advertised "buffet of buffets," which offers 6 buffets in 24 hours for about $50. Sure, it's cheap. But how could anybody possibly eat a buffet every 4 hours? My brother in his younger days might have been able to, but I'm not sure even he could now.

I had intended to go to the Roman baths at the spa at Caesar's Palace too, but clothing optional spa-going and tampons are a pretty squicky thought, so I left that for a more biologically suitable time.

Overall, I had an enjoyable weekend away and stayed well within my budget. My flight back was actually a connection via Denver. I got upgraded on the LAS-DEN leg, but not DEN-IAD. I should also mention that the movie on that last leg was The Big Year, which I really enjoyed. I'm not a birder (though I have a couple of good friends who are) so I can't testify to the accuracy of the bird information. But I understand the obsessive pursuit of a goal that other people may find incomprehensible, so this story of three men competing to see the most birds in a year resonated with me. It's not an uproarious laughter sort of comedy, but was just warm and quirky.
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